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Coronavirus Kent: Tips to stay healthy and boost your immune system

A sports therapist has shared his tips for staying healthy in the face of coronavirus.

Simon Kavanagh, who has a background in sports nutrition, runs clinics in Maidstone and Sittingbourne, and says there are things we can all do to give ourselves a boost.

Sports therapist Simon Kavanagh, says there are things we can do to stay healthy
Sports therapist Simon Kavanagh, says there are things we can do to stay healthy

Sport England has also revealed ways we can stay active during the pandemic.

Our immune system is a complex mix of tissues, cells and organs. It roots out germs and other invaders which make us sick. It targets viruses so we either get over them quickly, or primes us towards recovery.

And the good news is there are a number of things we can do to keep it in tip-top shape, even as the spread of Covid-19 imposes social isolation and work-from-home policies.

Vitamin C and D

While following a healthy diet is never to be discouraged, it turns out the quality of vitamin C we derive from citrus fruits such as oranges and kiwi fruit depletes, once their skin is broken. Which means we might be at a disadvantage before we start.

So the answer may be to look at a vitamin supplement. And research led by Patrick Holford, suggests high doses can rid someone of a cold in just 24 hours.

Vitamins C and D can be particularly helpful to our immune systems
Vitamins C and D can be particularly helpful to our immune systems

Mr Kavanagh, who runs SJK Injury Clinics, said: "However, no-one is suggesting we should all take ultra high amounts every day for life - this could be harmful.

"But Patrick Holford's work found a recommended dose of 2,000 mg a day was beneficial for those suffering with asthma or bronchitis.

"Other studies showed even 1,000 mg a day given to under 16s with a cold found that cold cleared up by a rate of 13% faster than if they took nothing. In over 16s, the rate was 8%."

"Taking Vitamin C is therefore optimal to immune system health and putting it in a position to fight anything that comes at it.

"One of my clients had a persistent cough for four months and after three weeks on a high dose, the cough went," Mr Kavanagh added.

Simon Kavanagh, far right, supporting Margaret Doak in 2013 with a 13-mile charity row at Maidstone Leisure Centre Picture: Matthew Walker
Simon Kavanagh, far right, supporting Margaret Doak in 2013 with a 13-mile charity row at Maidstone Leisure Centre Picture: Matthew Walker

"It is also the golden vitamin which helps us absorb others better."

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, a suggested dose of 500mg-1,000mg a day could be beneficial for most of us.

Research also suggests Vitamin D activates certain cells of the immune system. While more studies are needed, the suggestion is a healthy level arms us, internally, to fight infections. Sunlight is also a good source.

Diet

It goes almost without saying a healthy diet, featuring lots of fruit and veg, gives us a decent dose of nutrients to stay healthy.

And while blending up a smoothie has become more popular in recent years, the key is to mix it up.

Mr Kavanagh said: "If you just stick to fruit smoothies, or fruit juices, you will get a massive sugar rush, with the sugar going straight into your system. Vegetables aid in slower uptake of the fruit sugars.

"So you need to look at blending veg too - such as kale, spinach, avocado, then knock yourself out on fruit."

Fruit and vegetables give us the nutrients we need
Fruit and vegetables give us the nutrients we need

Strawberries, redcurrants and blueberries have antioxidant properties and show benefits in reducing cancer risk.

Exercise

A certain amount gives a welcome kick to our immune system, but go too far and the effects can be harmful.

"Just getting moving and getting a sweat on is good for us," said Mr Kavanagh.

"But hammering the body with extreme challenges means you have to be absolutely on top of supplementing your diet, so your immune system doesn't drop below its optimal state to cope."

Sport England says it is more important than ever, right now, to keep moving.

It says getting outside for a run, walk or cycle is beneficial. While opinion among people is divided on going to gyms, Sport England says members can ask for their gym's policy on social distancing and what hygiene measures are in place.

There are a range of exercises we can still do outside, by observing social distancing, or indoors
There are a range of exercises we can still do outside, by observing social distancing, or indoors

Assuming many of us are cooped up indoors, working at home hunched over a laptop, what can we do?

The answer is the basics - squats, press ups, planks, dips and crunches- as long as we're building up a sweat, our bodies are getting a benefit.

These are bodyweight exercises and great for building strength and endurance in the chest, shoulders, core and legs.

Again - key to this is not overdoing it. Can't do full press ups? Kneeling ones are just as good.

There are more tips here. Those looking for an online exercise programme, can check out Fitness Blender and Les Mills.

Stretching can be beneficial for all ages
Stretching can be beneficial for all ages

For people over 65, there are a range of balance and flexibility moves, published by the NHS, including step ups, neck and calf stretches.

More advice from Sport England is available here.

Alcohol

Like other messages here, a little in moderation can be beneficial, go overboard and it can diminish the state of our system.

Mr Kavanagh said: "If you do have too much, your body has to work to get rid of it, putting it under strain.

"Plus it can dehydrate you, which means you lose helpful nutrients."

It might not just be a sore head to worry about if you overdo the booze
It might not just be a sore head to worry about if you overdo the booze

Sir Muir Gray, a consultant in Public Health summed it up as: "A little alcohol does more good than harm; more than a little does more harm than good."

Sleep

Not getting enough shut-eye affects mood, memory and concentration. But it can also put our bodies under strain, which isn't great if we want to be primed to fight off disease and infection.

Long term sleep deprivation - regularly getting less than seven hours a night - also increases the risk of stroke.

Fortunately there are a series of things we can do to guide us towards a better night's sleep - putting down phone screens for at least 90 minutes before bed, to reduce blue light, not consuming drinks containing caffeine beyond lunchtime and having a hot bath or shower before bed, which can reduce body temperature, needed for a decent night's kip.

For the latest health news visit the Healthy You Kent Facebook page

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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