CPOC recommend exercise to combat COVID-19

People should prepare to fight coronavirus with all the precautions you would take for surgery, including staying fit and healthy. Experts at the Centre for Perioperative Care (CPOC) advise that a healthy diet will reduce the risk of becoming severely ill with the virus.

CPOC have also advised that people should exercise, have alcohol-free days, and quit smoking. Its deputy director Scarlett McNally, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, said there has been “a lot of very important advice” on how to cut the risk of becoming infected, however, there has been “little on the importance of preparing in case the virus is contracted”, she added.

CPOC is encouraging people to commit themselves to brisk exercise, quitting smoking, maintaining good nutrition and mental health, while taking alcohol-free days to reduce their chances of becoming severely ill from the virus, and over-burdening the NHS.

People are also being urged to take action now to cut the risk of developing other health problems which could put further strain on the NHS. Mrs McNally said people – especially those in a ‘vulnerable high-risk group’ – should be taking exercise, “so that if they catch the virus, they are less likely to need intensive care”.

CPOC, an initiative based at the Royal College of Anaesthetists, involves medics from different specialisms working together on how they can improve the care and outcomes of patients having surgery.

Mrs McNally says its Fitter, Better, Sooner advice aimed at preparing patients for operations is “immediately applicable to Covid-19 infection”. She said: “We have good data showing that people who are prepared for an operation have better outcomes. Results are quick.”

Experts in China, where the virus originated, “found less fit people with medical conditions were five times more likely to have a worse outcome from Covid-19; and smokers three times more likely to have this result”, she added. Prof Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, has previously warned smoking is “an additional vulnerability” for healthy people, and said now would be a “very good moment” for people to quit.

Graphic showing symptoms of coronavirus
Diagram of symptoms, courtesy of the BBC.

The advice, in summary.

  • Stop smoking
  • Take exercise, unless you are unwell with the virus: ideally a brisk walk, cycle or jog. Strengthening and balance exercises are also recommended
  • Those aged over 70 – considered to be at increased risk of severe illness from the virus – are allowed outside, unless they have been otherwise advised, and should keep two metres from others and not touch anything
  • Maintain a good diet, including trying smaller portion sizes and planning ahead for meals
  • Maintain your mental health, including getting a good night’s sleep
  • Have alcohol-free days


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