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COVID-19 immune function - exercise and diet

Date and Time
30th June 2020, 18:00 - 19:30
The event has passed


The NCSEM-EM hosted a series of online lifestyle education sessions in June and July 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These sessions were aimed at GPs and other healthcare professionals but were open to anyone with an interest in the topics. This session covered three talks on the impact of exercise and diet on COVID-19.

Exercise and immune function

Professor Lettie Bishop’s talk focused on how a person’s exercise and physical activity habits can impact on tolerance to respiratory infection and how this is related in part to the impact of exercise on immune function. She began by looking at the evidence suggesting that moderate amounts of regular physical activity can enhance tolerance to respiratory infections and then moved on to discuss how regular exercise can have positive effects on immune function, with a focus on anti-viral immune defence. There was also be a cautionary note on how exercising too hard, too soon and too often can do more harm than good to the immune system. Prof Bishop also discussed the implications of the relationship between exercise, immune function and respiratory infection for vulnerable groups and the general population in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diet and immune function

Dr Tom Clifford’s talk focused on the interactions between diet and immune function. He began by discussing the importance of a balanced diet for a well-functioning immune system. He then highlighted the key roles of macro and micronutrients in the immune system and finished off with recommendations for how nutrient intake can be manipulated to optimise immune defence

Exercise and immune function in cancer patients

It is increasingly apparent that physical activity and exercise play a key role in reducing cancer risk and helping to improve patient outcomes, but there is some evidence that exercise tolerance is impaired following coronavirus infection. Dr Mhairi Morris’ presentation focused on the importance of exercise for immune function in cancer patients: not only how this can reduce secondary cancer risk, but also how it could help prevent viral infections, including coronavirus. It also covered the current recommendations for exercise in cancer patients, as well as some of the outline recommendations for return-to-exercise post-coronavirus infection.

You can view all the presentations in the video above. Specific speakers can be found at the following times:
Prof Lettie Bishop – Exercise and immune function (view at 3 mins 10 secs)
Dr Tom Clifford – Diet and immune function (view at 32 mins 26 secs)
Dr Mhairi Morris – Exercise and immune function in cancer patients (view at 1 hr 1 min 44 secs)