Cardiopulmonary Physiology and The Year 2020

We’ve all heard the stats. It’s the old people dying of COVID-19 and not the young ones. In particular it’s old people with underlying health conditions which make them more susceptible. Let’s examine cardiopulmonary physiology briefly in the context of COVID.

The medical profession has been mute with respect to prevention other than recommending measures to prevent contact with the virus. In fairness, the WHO has come out and said inexactly “keep exercising”. Given the statistics which indicate young and healthy individual do better, I ask myself…in the context of COVID-19 attacking the lungs mostly….what is it that a person can do to improve their pulmonary health? You guessed it – exercise.

Edward L. Fox and Donald K. Mathews have written on the subject of exercise physiology in their book “The Physiological Basis of Physical Education and Athletics”. The 2020 question becomes, will physically trained individuals handle the COVID-19  virus better than sedentary individuals. Relevant topics covered by Fox and Mathews are “anatomical dead space and alveolar ventilation”, and “lung volume”. The authors proclaim that trained individuals possess higher lung volumes. We are left in 2020 to derive a correlation between increased lung volumes and better oxygenation upon viral threat. The alveoli becomes a key term in the context of oxygenation given that this anatomical structure has been described as an exchange port for transmitting oxygen to capillaries. Authors stop short of proclaiming an increase in oxygen transport efficiency from expanded alveolar capacity due to any training effect in spite of showcasing positively correlated statistics. This has been the question which has “plagued” me since the onset of COVID-19 harkening back to my coursework in exercising physiology as a university student.

In summary, I encourage readers to exercise. If you are a swimmer in Calgary right now you may not be aware that you are treated to your own lap lane at the Respol Centre with an advanced booking even in the context of the new November 23rd regulations. Cross country skiing season is right around the corner and I’ve prepped my skis in anticipation. 

If you work at your health, you’re most likely to be rewarded. If you are not among the risk groups and you regress into a protective cocoon through COVID-19 fear…..instead of being a “sitting duck” you could become a “sitting couch potato”.