Stone Age Doc’s Pandemic Perspective #3

Exercise strengthens your immune system.

Persons who engage in regular, moderately intense physical activity have better immune function than couch potatoes do. Generally, as we get older we exercise less and accumulate more fat. Both of those conditions depress our immune function.

Those of us who are gym rats are frustrated by the closure of fitness centers where we could engage in a variety of exercises, socialize a little and return home with energy to spare. How can we fill the void – or begin an exercise routine if we haven’t had one previously? In a nutshell there are two elements: First, make it a priority. Decide that it is such an important element in your life that nothing should stand in your way, especially if you no longer have job at the moment. Second, schedule your home workout for a specific time of day. I used to go to the fitness center at about 10 a.m. and that is the FIRM starting time for my new routine.

Perhaps the single best exercise is the ordinary push-up. It involves the arms, shoulders, chest, back, abdomen and legs, which is why I referred to it as the perfect exercise in a column a few years ago. Vary the width of your hands in order to bring different muscle groups into play. Eventually you should be able to do at least 25 push-ups at a time no matter how old you are.

Another simple exercise is the crunch, a kind of partial sit-up, best done with the feet flat on the floor. Do NOT anchor your feet under a piece of furniture.

For more variety use elastic bands or hand weights. You’ll find countless tips on getting the most from them on the Internet.

Key point: If you’re new at this, start slowly in order to avoid DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). If you’re not a regular exerciser, consider starting with three sets of 5 push-ups and add one more push-up each time you exercise. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your body will respond.

What about walking?

Walking is not only an excellent exercise, it’s a chance to get out of the house. You might even want to go for a brisk walk a couple of times a day. Start slowly if you have not been doing it already, no more than 10 minutes the first day. Add 5 minutes per session until you are walking for at least 60 minutes.

How fast? You should be able to engage in conversation; if you are able to sing while walking you’re going too slowly!

My personal guarantee: you are going to feel noticeably better by the end of your second week of exercising.


What is a fomite?

A fomite is an inanimate object that can be contaminated with an infectious agent and transmit that germ to another person. The term comes from the Latin word for “tinder” – a quite appropriate image when you consider that a single doorknob can be the source of infection for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people.

Healthcare workers can transmit infection via fomites such as stethoscopes, even lab coats and neckties!

Anything that you touch with contaminated fingers can spread the infection to others. Obvious fomites include doorknobs and handles, railings, gym equipment, grocery cart handles, etc. But have you thought about light switches, elevator buttons, computer keyboards (especially in libraries), gas pump handles, the ATM machine and money?

Carrying alcohol wipes and using them on everything that you touch outside the home is not a bad idea, but they are a little messy and inconvenient. I’d like to share the Cocktail Napkin Defense. You probably have a stack of cocktail napkins around from your last party or holiday season. They might still be available in local stores, especially the Dollar stores, since most people don’t think of them as tissues or paper towels. I carry a few in my jacket pocket at all times. I use one to open the door at the store, on the lever of a water fountain, when I hold onto a handrail, or even press an elevator button at the doctor’s office – a pretty likely place for viruses to lurk!

Fomites are the best reason for washing your hands several times a day, even if you have used that cocktail napkin!


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