Molecular mechanisms involved in the positive effects of physical activity on coping with COVID-19

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2020 Dec;120(12):2569-2582. doi: 10.1007/s00421-020-04484-5. Epub 2020 Sep 3.


Purpose: Physical activity (PA) represents the first line of defence against diseases characterised by increased inflammation status, such as metabolic and infectious diseases. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle-associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disorders-negatively impacts on general health status, including susceptibility to infections. At a time of a pandemic SARS-CoV2 infection, and in the context of the multiorgan crosstalk (widely accepted as a mechanism participating in the pathophysiology of all organs and systems), we examine the complex interplay mediated by skeletal muscle contraction involving the immune system and how this contributes to control health status and to counteract viral infections. In so doing, we review the molecular mechanisms and expression of molecules modulated by PA, able to provide the proper molecular equipment against viral infections such as the current SARS-CoV2.

Methods: A critical review of the literature was performed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms and mediators induced by PA that potentially impact on viral infections such as SARS-CoV2.

Results: We showed the effects mediated by regular moderate PA on viral adverse effects through the regulation of biological processes involving the crosstalk between skeletal muscle, the immune system and adipose tissue. Evidence was provided of the effects mediated by modulation of the expression of inflammation markers.

Conclusion: A tigth association between PA and reduction in inflammation status allows effective counteracting of SARS-CoV2 infection. It is therefore essential to persuade people to keep active.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cytokines; Healthy lifestyle; Immune system; Inflammation; Metabolic disorders; Physical activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections* / immunology
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2