Advance with MUSC Health

Movement Is Medicine

Advance With MUSC Health
October 10, 2022
Athletic trainer and trainee in the weightroom.

By Michael Sole, MS, ATC, CSCS

The pandemic has changed a lot; however, while it continues to challenge modern medicine and our “old” ways of life, it may have helped uncover and bring to light one of our greatest forms of preventative medicine: exercise. Prior to our current pandemic, there was already a silent pandemic brewing in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that about 3.2 million deaths per year are attributed to unhealthy lifestyle behavior1.

A sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity have been crippling the world for the last two decades, but the effects have fallen upon deaf ears. Unfortunately, this has been compounded with the current pandemic leading to quarantining at home and decreasing our social behavior. There is a large concern that the factors associated with an unhealthy lifestyle increase the risk of social isolation, which will increase mortality risk, especially in the elderly population.

In this ever-changing situation, we find ourselves needing to adapt constantly to the world around us. Now more than ever, it is apparent that we need to take care of our bodies and our minds. As was projected for the past summer months, we saw an increase in COVID-19 cases in our area, and once again, we were forced to change our ways and adjust. We all want to stay safe and keep our loved ones even safer… so how can we continue to carry that out?

Take a Step: Healthy Changes are one step away

Masking, physical distancing, and getting vaccinated are tremendous and proven measures to help keep us safe; however, we still run the risk of contracting the virus. You may ask yourself, “What else can I do to protect myself and my loved ones?” The answer… stand up and take a step.

Take a step towards a healthier lifestyle. Our best preventative medicine is movement. The US Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that all adults engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to physical activity2. Recent research suggests that taking as little as 4,000 steps per day (about 1.8 miles) at any pace significantly improves long-term health3.

In short, when we move, our immune systems become stronger. It has been studied that individuals infected with COVID-19 are much more likely to be hospitalized and have poorer health outcomes if underlying chronic medical conditions are present. There is further evidence that suggests an increased likelihood of chronic disease with those who are physically inactive and live a sedentary lifestyle4.

Your Wellness is Worth It

Regular physical activity reduces the risk of systemic (total body) inflammation, which is a main contributor to lung damage caused by COVID-19. Thus, we can conclude that if we exercise and stay active on a regular basis, then we will not only decrease our likelihood of chronic disease, but also arm our immune systems to succeed if we do come in contact with COVID-19, or any virus for that matter. In fact, a recent study from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in California found a link between physical inactivity and hospitalization rates.

Since 2009, Kaiser Permanente has been tracking exercise activity in all its outpatient encounters and was able to find that in 48,440 adults, those who were consistently physically inactive significantly increased their odds of hospitalization by two-fold2. When we exercise at a moderate intensity, it not only improves our quality of life but also reduces the risk of developing systemic inflammatory processes and stimulates cellular immunity6.

Short of vaccination and following public health safety guidelines, engaging in regular physical activity may be the single most important action anyone can take to prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms and its complications, including death2.

7+ Steps to a Healthier You

The next question that remains is…how do I get started? The key is to make small, sustainable changes that you can continue to implement regardless of the situation or scenario.

  1. It may be very difficult to block off 30 minutes a day for physical activity, but perhaps that can be segmented into a 10-minute walk following breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That would be 210 minutes of exercise in one week without having to severely adjust your schedule.
  2. Some other options for physical activity include walking briskly around the house, going up and down stairs, dancing, or jumping rope.
  3. Gardening or yard work can be included as part of your exercise or active routine.
  4. By having an active mindset, you may be able to achieve this throughout the entirety of the day such as parking in the spot furthest away in the parking lot to get more steps or using the stairs instead of the elevator.
  5. Additionally, weights are not always needed. Exercises such as squats, sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, and yoga can all be done at home and with your own body weight.
  6. Resistance bands have become much more popular as a result of the pandemic because of their versatility.
  7. Even by using regular household items, such as backpacks, books, market bags, and water bottles, you can easily add resistance to your home workouts.

You are Not Alone: The new MUSC Health and Wellness Institute can help

Navigating the exercise and fitness world can be overwhelming. Additionally, exercise is only one piece of the puzzle when discussing a healthy lifestyle. Mental health and nutrition are key foundational components as well. The new MUSC Health and Wellness Institute was created with the mindset of giving you the tools to live a healthy lifestyle and enhance your quality of life.

The Health and Wellness Institute is fully-staffed with an athletic trainer who will help you put a plan together for your exercise and fitness journey, a dietitian to educate you about your food choices, and a mindfulness center with experts in yogic breathing and resiliency. Moreover, a health coach is available to create and implement your goals to help build a better you. Take your first step today and visit us at 1122 Chuck Dawley Blvd in Mt. Pleasant or online at MUSC Health and Wellness Institute. Below are some helpful tools from the American College of Sports Medicine about returning to physical activity after COVID-19.

Returning to Physical Activity After COVID-19 (PDF)

Staying Active During COVID-19


  1. Hall G, L. D. (2020). A tale of two pandemics: How will COVID-19 and global trends in physical inactivity and sedentary behavior affect one another? Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 1-3.
  2. Piercy KL, T. R. (2018). The physical activity guidelines for Americans. JAMA, 8.
  3. Saint-Maurice PF, T. R. (2020). Association of daily step count and step intensity with mortality among US adults. JAMA, 1151-1160.
  4. Chow N, F.-D. K. (2020). Preliminary estimates of the prevalence of selected underlying health conditions among patients with Coronavirus disease 2019 - United States, February 12-March 28. Morbidity and mortality weekly report.
  5. Sallis J, A. D. (2020). International physical activity and public health research agenda to inform coronavirus disease-2019 policies and practices. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 328-334
  6. da Silveira MP, d. S. (2021). Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature. Clinical and Experimental Medicine, 15-28.