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Vitamins to Support Your Body’s Immune System

By:  Mark S. Cassidy, MS

COVID-19 is now causing major health concerns throughout the United States along with the world. Close to 150 nations are being affected by this virus and (as of March 2020) there is no vaccine currently on the market.  However, that doesn’t mean that people can’t take proactive measures to help slow the spread of the virus.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has made the following daily recommendations:

  • Limit social gatherings and keep approximately 6 feet of distance (Social Separation)
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay at home if you are sick (Self Quarantine)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean objects and surfaces using a household cleaning spray or disinfected wipe
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

All of these recommendations by the CDC are important.  But we can all do more.

Viruses negative effects on the body are influenced by one’s own immune system.  The stronger and healthier your immune system is, the more efficient you are to fighting back against bacteria and viruses.  It is very important for us to maintain a healthy immune system.  Therefore, a proper diet that is filled with the necessary vitamins is needed, to help against harmful germs.

The vitamins that should be taken to help maintain a healthy immune system are as follows:

VITAMIN C

Vitamins C takes aggressive action towards germs causing damage to your immune system.  Vitamin C strengthens the cells that help in killing the germs, hence providing a boost to the immune system.  In the body, Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, working to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.  (Antioxidant – is a substance that inhibits oxidation, deterioration or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides, or free radicals).  Vitamin C helps the body make collagen and helps improve the absorption of iron from plant-based foods.

Citrus fruits and green vegetables are all great sources of vitamin C.

VITAMIN A

Vitamin A is often associated with vision, but it also has a positive role in a strong immune system.  Vitamin A is considered to be a defensive line for the immune system because it helps keep the germs and the viruses from entering the body.  Vitamin A helps in keeping the mucous membrane moist and soft (which can be found in the nose, throat and mouth).  The mucous membrane needs to be kept moist and soft because this helps it in trapping the germs and stopping them from infiltration into the body.  Vitamin A also creates the enzymes that boost the immune system, along with playing a role in the maintenance of body linings and skin reproduction.

Vitamin A can be found in vegetables like broccoli, lettuce, carrots and squash, along with breakfast cereals, dairy products and some types of fish.

VITAMIN B6

Vitamin B6 (chemically know as pyridoxine) is a critically important nutrient with a wide range of functions.  Vitamin B6 is involved with more than a hundred enzyme reactions, within the body, involved in metabolism.  (Metabolism – is the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life).  Vitamin B6 plays a big role in protein metabolism, making hemoglobin (that is needed in blood – oxygen transportation) and boosts to proper immune function.

Vitamin B6 comes from a variety of foods such as chicken, fish, potatoes, starchy vegetables and non-citrus fruits.

VITAMIN E

Vitamin E is good in boosting the immune system to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.   Vitamin E helps in the production of the protein, interleukin-2, which is a protein that kills bacteria, viruses and germs when the body is infected.  The protein (interleukin-2) that is produced by vitamin E is also used in the treatment of certain cancers.

Vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and green, leafy vegetables are all good sources of Vitamin E.

VITAMIN D

Vitamin D supports the immune system and is necessary for building and maintaining healthy bones.  The reason for this is calcium, which is the primary component of bone, can only be absorbed by your body when adequate amounts of vitamin D are present.  Your body is able to make vitamin D when direct sunlight converts a chemical in your skin into an active form of vitamin D (called calciferol).

Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods naturally, but you can get it from fortified milk, fortified cereal, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.

Each of these vitamins can be obtained through food, eaten during a balanced diet.  However, you could also choose to take any (or all) of these vitamins through supplementation.  A multi-vitamin or a combination of vitamin tablets (once a day) will be sufficient to help your body’s immune system remain strong and healthy during these tough times.

Being proactive with your health, is a benefit to you and the people around you.

Stay safe.

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Epidemic Survival Strategies for Fitness Enthusiasts and Professionals

by Joseph Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Disclaimer: The content disseminated in this article shall not be constituted as medical advice, nor should any of the suppositions set forth supersede the time-sensitive directives enacted by government organizations and public health agencies which are both empirically driven and continually evolving.

Joe GiandonatoEvery aspect of our lives has been seized by ambiguity, uncertainty, and downright worry. Seemingly no societal stone has been left unturned as countless industries have been disrupted resulting in the cancellations of tens of thousands of commercial flights, countless commencement ceremonies, dozens of competitive seasons and respective postseason tournaments, prominently including March Madness, the NBA Finals, and NHL Stanley Cup, while shattering global tourism.

The coronavirus has begun to make its indelible footprint on life as we know it. However, through full adherence to evolving public health measures as a means to “flatten the curve” of growing cases while adopting a resolve of acceptance and adapting under a new set of circumstances, our society can surmount what mainstream media leads everyone to believe as an existential threat to civilization.

According to multiple media sources, this coronavirus strain, also known as COVID-19, initially emerged from the Wuhan region of the Hubei province located in southeastern China. Though conflicting reports prevail precisely from where and how this virus originated.

Coronaviruses are members of the subfamily Coronavirinae in the Coronviridae family under the order of Nidovirales and comprise four genera, or types of viruses, which have been shown to cause gastrointestinal and/or respiratory infections within mammals and birds. They have demonstrated the ability to transfect multiple species, jumping from one host to another through close contact. Additionally, they possess mutative abilities, meaning they can intensify into more virulent iterations of the virus, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2012 and 2013.

Though persons with the coronavirus exhibit symptoms similar to the flu, both viruses differ in their genomic and virion structures, with the coronavirus bearing doubly greater rates of infection and transmissibility than the flu. The case fatality rate of coronavirus, or the percentage of cases resulting in mortality range from 1.0-3.4% versus 0.1% for the seasonal flu.

Concerningly, no vaccines exist, however, scores of pharmaceutical companies spanning the globe are scrambling to develop one. Within weeks of its emergence in southeastern China, the virus’ genome, or unique strand of genetic information, was culled from an infected subject, helping fast track vaccine development. As of Monday, March 16th, human trials are underway with a vaccine prototype in the Seattle area.

Globally, our access to healthcare and advancements in science are in stark contrast to 1917 when the first wave of the great influenza pandemic hit. A century ago, physicians and scientists only read about viruses and since the electron microscope didn’t make its way to laboratory benches until the early 1940s, there was no way to identify the culprit that claimed the lives of 50 million people.

Further, sanitary practices weren’t as stringent in healthcare settings as they are present day. Poor sanitation, in conjunction with suboptimal personal hygiene and lack of intensive care units and sterile isolation areas, lent themselves to secondary bacteria infections which many theorize, ultimately choked the final breaths from flu-stricken victims.

Chances are, history won’t be repeating itself. Though municipalities that enacted travel constraints and preventive quarantine measures, fared better than cities with lax or non-existent standards during the pandemic, so we can expect continued restrictions to reduce the likelihood of infection.

  1. Pump down the volume and turn down the intensity.

If one has access to equipment during this time, it is recommended that restraint be employed pertaining to exercise intensity and volume as both have been implicated in temporarily suppressing immune system function as marked by increases in immune cell phenotypes, cortisol, and oxidative stress. Based on the review of the literature, acute singular bouts of exercise at or above lactate threshold (55% of VO2max among untrained individuals; 85% of VO2max among trained individuals) for periods of up to, or more than one hour, contributed to temporary immunosuppression. Regular exercise among individuals has shown to yield immunoprotective benefits. The takeaway here should be, exercise during this time should be regarded as a tool to reinvigorate and recover, not bury and deliberately fatigue. Sparingly perform sets to failure and limit volume at or beyond lactate threshold. Do what is necessary to maintain muscular fitness, such as endurance or hypertrophy, but do not try to force adaptation through grueling training modalities as temporary inflammation and metabolic and oxidative stress may leave you more vulnerable to infection, if exposed to the virus. Alternatively, one can train to improve maximal, or limit strength, since development of this fitness quality is dependent upon neural, not metabolic pathways that elicit heightened metabolic and oxidative stress that can impede immune system functioning. Also, one may engage in submaximal lower intensity steady state cardiovascular exercise without much metabolic or oxidative stress inducing consequences.

  1. Prioritize lagging fitness qualities or movement capacity.

This time can be better invested focusing on deficient fitness qualities, such as limit strength, if equipment avails, aerobic fitness, or soft tissue quality, muscular extensibility, flexibility, and stability and motor control, which in concert, can improve movement capacity. Aerobic fitness and movement capacity can be improved simultaneously through hybridized circuits such as the one outlined below:

Repeat 5 times with 1:30 rest between each sequence

  • Banded Pull Apart x 15 repetitions
  • Glute Bridge x 15 repetitions
  • Alternating Groiner with Thoracic Rotation x 6 repetitions (each side)
  • Alternating High Knee Hug to Forward Lunge x 6 repetitions (each side)
  • Yoga Push Up (High Plank to Downward Dog) x 6 repetitions
  • Squat to Overhead Reach x 15 repetitions
  • Burpee x 3 repetitions
  1. Catch up on vitamin “S”…sleep!

Slow wave, or deep sleep, has shown to bolster immune system functioning (1), whereas, deprivation, even for as little as a week, impedes phagocytosis (2), the body’s process of engulfing, internalizing, and processing foreign particles, or antigens, such as viruses and bacteria. Many athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and fitness professionals are sleep deprived. Now is the chance to catch up and get a solid seven to eight per night.

  1. Contemplate shifting to virtual mediums

With much of the country under lockdown and some jurisdictions, such as the state of California, restricting person over the 65 from leaving their homes, fitness professionals, especially those who are self-employed, should consider temporarily transitioning to virtual sessions conducted via Skype, Hangout, Blue Jeans, or FaceTime. Many of these applications are free and the majority of modern-day iPhones have FaceTime capabilities. If virtual training arrangements are not possible, fitness professionals should regularly check in with their clients to ensure they are staying on track, helping ease the transition when they will inevitably be meeting with you again.

  1. Invest some time in professional development.

Investor magnate Warren Buffet has a reputation as a voracious reader, consuming newspapers, novels, and journals in upwards of five hours per day. He attributes much of his success as an investor to possessing a wide breadth of knowledge on a number of subjects and industries. Many fitness professionals fail to reach five hours of reading, or more broadly, professional development per week, let alone per month. Use this time to devour a subject or domain on which you know very little or an area that will help you better service your clients.

Joseph Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS presently serves as a Fitness Specialist at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he assists with the oversight of recreational and college-wide wellness programming. Giandonato also serves as a part-time faculty member at Eastern University and Chestnut Hill College, where he teaches exercise science electives. Previously, Giandonato served as the Manager of Health Promotion and Wellness at Drexel University where he initiated and implemented the award winning A HEALTHIER U campus wellness initiative. Additionally, Giandonato serves as an instructor for the World Instructor Training Schools, through which he’s helped certify hundreds of personal trainers since 2010.

References

  1. Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Born, J. (2012). Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Archive European Journal of Physiology, 463 (1), 121-137.
  2. Said, E.A., Al-Abri, M.A., Al-Saidi, I., Al-Balushi, M.S., Al-Busaidi, J.Z., Al-Reesi, I., Koh, C.Y., Idris, M.A., Al-Jabri, A.A., & Habbal, O. (2019). Sleep deprivation alters neutrophil functions and levels of Th1-related chemokines and CD4⁺ T cells in the blood. Sleep and Breathing, 23 (4), 1331-1339.
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COVID-19 and Fitness: How Should We Proceed?

Written by
Dave Johnson, W.I.T.S. Curriculum Director

As many of you are aware, the world is currently battling a new pandemic, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As of the publication of this post, there are over 100,000 confirmed cases across the globe and over 500 cases in the United States. Most public health experts anticipate continued spread throughout our communities and many people are choosing to stay home rather than continue their normal routines – which includes visiting their fitness facilities.

We’ve put together some tips to help navigate these difficult times. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out – we are here to help you!

  1. Increase hygienic protocols
    Your facility should already be wiping down equipment at the end of each business day (at a minimum) but now is the time to bump that frequency up to at least three times per day. Consider investing in hospital-grade disinfectant and increase the number of times you clean equipment. Alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol should be effective against the coronavirus, according to the CDC and here’s a comprehensive list of viable disinfectants from the EPA.Also, make sure your locker rooms and restrooms are fully stock with hand soap and paper towels.
  2. Be mindful of high-touch areas
    Take a walk around your facility and note how many areas are likely to be contacted by your clients’ hands. COVID-19 cannot be spread through sweat but it can be left on surfaces or objects that come in contact with hands. It is currently unknown how long the virus is viable on surfaces.Doorknobs, dumbbells, barbells, and handles are all prime examples of items that receive high touch-traffic throughout the day. If you are running a group fitness class, wipe down everything after each class.
  3. Encourage client participation
    Increase the availability of both hand sanitizer and disinfectant in your facility. Your job becomes much easier if your clients buy in to the sanitization process.Post additional signs encouraging people to wipe down their equipment after each use and be sure to mention hand-contact areas. Some facilities are allowing clients to bring their own wipes, as well.
  4. Decrease hands-on activities
    Do you love shaking hands with your clients or do you offer a hands-on training style? Do you currently offer classes that are high in the potential for skin-to-skin contact? Consider cancelling them for the time being. Any skin-to-skin contact increases the likelihood of transmission. 
  5. Increase your client communication
    Be proactive and reach out to your clients now. Send out an email blast and/or post on social media the steps your facility is taking to combat the spread of COVID-19. Assure your clients that their safety and well-being is your number one concern and you’re taking all the appropriate steps to maintain a safe training space.This message should also remind your clients that, if they are feeling ill, they should stay home and rest.

     

  6. Get staff on board
    If you currently manage a staff, make sure they are on board with your sanitization procedures. If you’re able to, consider dedicating at least one staff member per hour to be visible in the facility cleaning the equipment. Not only does it keep your facility clean but it also provides peace of mind to your clients who physically see your efforts.