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Coronavirus: The time to play offense is now

Over the last 2 months, we have been playing defense against the coronavirus. We have used social distancing and wearing facemasks to protect our most vulnerable. However, we should ask ourselves how we can make ourselves less vulnerable? What can we do to play offense?

Public health officials have said that a second wave is very likely. Mark Lipsich, a Harvard epidemiologist, states that the summer may slow down the coronavirus but it will be back in the fall. The number of new transmission may peak in November and the number of cases peaking in December (Harvard epidemiologist: Beware COVID-19’s second wave this fall, 2020).

This provides us ample opportunity to train and improve our overall health and fitness. An athlete does not show up to competition without training beforehand. It is not if you are exposed to the virus, it is when. Will you be ready for it?

What Can We do?

1. Stay Active

This quarantine has made us adopt a sedentary lifestyle. There is no more walking around the office or walking between classes. The amount of walking and activity required in day to day life has significantly diminished for most people.

According to a recent article in the European Journal of Sports Science, inactivity has many negative consequences. Inactivity causes loss of muscle mass, suppression of muscle protein synthesis, reduction in muscle insulin sensitivity, and decrease in VO2 max.

Prevent Muscle Loss

After 10 days, there has been shown to be a ~6% loss in muscle mass and after 1 month it increases up to ~10%. We have been quarantined for 2 months so that means that some people may have potentially lost 20% of their muscle mass. It will take months to restore that muscle strength. People that were already a high risk for the coronavirus may potentially be at a greater risk now after being quarantined for 2 months.

Reduce Your Risk Of Diabetes

Inactivity leads to a reduction in muscle insulin sensitivity. Low insulin sensitivity is also known as insulin resistance. This means that the cells do not absorb glucose well, which leads to an increase in blood sugar levels. An increase in blood sugar levels is what leads to Type II Diabetes. This new level of inactivity may lead to people that were previously considered pre-diabetic to become diabetic.

According to an article on that was titled "How COVID-19 Impacts People with Diabetes", it stated that a person with diabetes is at a higher risk for complications if they become infected. It also mentioned that diabetes does not increase the risk of acquiring coronavirus but it does have a significant impact on the outcome.

Improve Your Cardiovascular Fitness

Inactivity also leads to a decrease in maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max). This measures how much oxygen a human body can consume per minute. Our body then transports that oxygen to our muscles to be utilized during exercise. The better we are at consuming that oxygen and then utilizing it efficiently, the better. The same concept applies if you compare how our body uses oxygen to how a car uses fuel. The more efficient we can use our "fuel", the better our cardiovascular fitness. Our goal should be to have our cardiovascular fitness resemble a Toyota Prius more than a Chevy Silverado. This is important because a decrease in maximal oxygen uptake has been associated with an increase in mortality rate.

2. use Wearable Technology

A great way to combat this sedentary lifestyle is to make yourself more aware. A Fitbit, Garmin, WHOOP, Apple Watch are all great ways to monitor your activity. Our goals should be to take at least 5,000 steps per day. Less than 5,000 steps have been associated with negative impacts on body composition, cardiovascular fitness , decrease in insulin sensitivity and glycemic control (Tudor-Locke et al., 2013) Wearable devices can help you create accountability for yourself so that you continue to move and maintain/start a healthy lifestyle.

3. Eat well

It is important now more than ever to eat well. Unfortunately, this new adopted sedentary lifestyle does not translate to a new approach to eating. Our appetite and food intake may not match our new decreased energy requirement level. Most of us have probably kept the same diet without taking into account that we are now less active. Even worse, the mental work and leisure activities that we do while being sedentary may actually increase our appetite and desire to eat. This translates to doing less while eating more, which is not a recipe for a healthy lifestyle.

Here are a few suggestions on how we can improve our diet and nutrition.

  • Reduce meal frequency by trying intermittent fasting

  • Consume fresh vegetables and quality protein. The proper amount of protein is 1.3g of protein per kg of body weight

  • Increase your consumption of seed, nuts, and monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats found in olive oil, avocados, and some nuts.

  • Avoid processed foods. An effective strategy should be to shop around the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid items that have a food label on them. Most fresh food items do not have food label.

  • Reduce intake of high glycemic index foods, which can increase your blood sugar levels. An increase in blood sugar levels can cause diabetes.


The time is now to prepare for the next wave of Coronavirus. There is plenty of time to take control of your health and improve your overall cardiovascular fitness. People that are more likely to have complications are those that have co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Those are all reversible and preventable if you stay active, monitor your activity, and eat well. We need to look at exercise the same way we look at wearing a mask, it is vital to the fight against the coronavirus. We need to develop a complete game plan that not only focuses on playing great defense but also great offense.


  1. Narici M, De Vito G, Franchi M, et al. Impact of sedentarism due to the COVID-19 home confinement on neuromuscular, cardiovascular and metabolic health: Physiological and pathophysiological implications and recommendations for physical and nutritional countermeasures [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 12].Eur J Sport Sci. 2020;1‐22. doi:10.1080/17461391.2020.1761076

  2. Tudor-Locke,C.,Craig,C. L.,Thyfault,J. P., &Spence,J. C.(2013).A step-defined sedentary lifestyle index: <5000 steps/day.Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism,38,100–114.

  3. American Medical Association. 2020.Harvard Epidemiologist: Beware COVID-19’S Second Wave This Fall. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 25 May 2020].

  4. 2020.How COVID-19 Impacts People With Diabetes | ADA. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 25 May 2020].

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