A new study said that exercising on a regular basis can help reduce the risk of pneumonia and its detrimental impact.
As per the systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 prospective studies involving over 10 lakh participants, ‘physical activity types that are attractive to and feasible for high-risk populations need to be identified and encouraged’.
The study published in GeroScience Journal noted that physical activity helps to improve levels of potential risk factors such as body weight, hypertension, lipids, haemostatic factors, adipokines, and sex hormones; decrease systemic inflammation while also reducing the incidence, duration, or severity of infections.
World Health Organization identifies pneumonia as a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. The lungs are made up of small sacs called alveoli, which fill with air when a healthy person breathes. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake. It can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses.
Study’s lead author, Dr Setor Kunutsor, Senior Lecturer in Evidence Synthesis in the Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences (THS) said, “Though our study could not determine the amount and intensity of physical activity, which is essential to prevent pneumonia, some of the results suggest that walking for 30 minutes once a week has a protective effect on death due to pneumonia.”
Amid the pandemic, Covid-19 pneumonia is considered a deadly illness, as per WebMD, with about 15 per cent of Covid-19 cases becoming severe requiring oxygen in a hospital. It further added that about five per cent of people have critical infections and need a ventilator.
Considering Covid-19 is still there, Dr Kunutsor along with co-authors S Seidu, University of Leicester, and Jari A Laukkanen, stated that developing severe pneumonia from Covid-19 and other respiratory diseases is a common occurrence. “Taking regular physical activity could reduce the risk of respiratory diseases such as Covid-19 in at-risk groups like older adults and those with underlying health conditions,” explained the authors in the study.
However, Dr Navneet Sood, Pulmonary Consultant, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital said that the risk of catching pneumonia “may or may not be directly associated with exercises as it may differ as per cases”. Agreed Dr Satya Ranjan Sahu, Consultant Pulmonologist, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram and said every person’s physical condition is different, and hence it may work differently for every person.
“Exercises are helpful for a quality life, and they certainly influence lung health and immunity which prevent incidence of pneumonia, but its effect on mortality once pneumonia sets in is not totally proven. Regular breathing exercises and active lifestyle help to keep lungs healthy. The more we stretch our lungs’ muscles, the more we prepare them to fight against respiratory issues,” he said.
Meanwhile, the study did not prove cause and effect, and hence, further research is needed to show if the associations demonstrated are causal. Another limitation of the study noted that accurately assessing physical activity with the use of accelerometers or pedometers is necessary.