In the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, we wrote an article - printed below - which after a few days we took down. We did this as the situation became more and more serious and it became more and more obvious that this disease would hit everyone hard. Although older peole and those with 'underlying health conditions' have for the most part had worse outcomes than healthy individuals, Covid-19 has claimed the lives of people of all ages and health conditions and our article might have seemed inappropriate at the time.
However, we have decided to reprint the article now in the light of comments by Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London and the UK government's advisor on the epidemiological aspects of Covid-19, as reported in the Sunday Times of 12th April. Professor Feguson was asked how people could best prepare themselves for combatting the infection and his advice was that staying fit and losing weight was the best way to help oneself in the event of catching the infection.
So here is our original article, written on 13th of March, with further comment below:-
"Certainly epidemic, potentially pandemic, Coronavirus is now sweeping across the world. Amongst the medical advice on how best to avoid catching it - wash your hands as often as you like, for at least 30 seconds - much of the commentary is that those most at risk are older people. However, this is a complete generalisation!
According to BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh, speaking this morning on BBC Radio 5 Live, the reason that older people are at risk is not due to their birthdate but due to a waning immune system. But the immune system is not waning due to age, it is waning due to physical ‘un-fitness’. The fitter that older people are, the more effective their immune system remains, so the less likely they are to catch the virus.
To support this, Fergus quoted a study he had done with a group of veteran cyclists - we reported on this here - where even in those aged in their eighties, their immune system was as strong as those of an average twenty-year-old! He said that a fit seventy-year-old is no more likely to catch the virus than a fit twenty-year-old. And if the aforementioned seventy-year-old did catch it, we think they’d have excellent powers of recovery as well!
So increased susceptibility to the disease is not age-related, it is more likely to be immune-system-related. And as Silver Grey athletes are exceptionally fit, their immune systems will still be strong. Given that there have been several outbreaks of new viruses in the recent past such as SARS and MERS, there is little doubt that other new viruses will appear in the future. And although it is not guaranteed, giving yourself a chance of a better outcome in the face of such potential threats is more motivation for working at getting as fit as you can as you get older.
Yet another example of exercise being the best medicine."
A further thought:-
Where we live is a lovely place for running, in the country but with easy access from the local small town. As the lock-down has continued, more and more people, have discovered our little oasis, and the number of runners, some of whom have obviously just taken up the activity, is growing daily. There are people of all ages, from children to Silver Greys, exercising singley and in family groups, running, walking or cycling.
Let's hope that many of them continue running or exercising another way, once life returns to 'normal', having discovered that getting your body to do what it is designed for, i.e. being active, is one of life's true pleasures.