‘Exercise is a Life Tool’: Dr. Brady Bowen on the Importance of Exercise During Covid-19 and Beyond

Exercise is good for you. There’s no getting away from that fact. And a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that physical activity has important ramifications in regard to Covid-19, as well. The Kaiser Permanente study found that being consistently active is strongly associated with reduced risk of developing complications related to Covid-19.

“These findings make sense, of course,” said Brady Bowen, DO, a primary care and sports medicine physician at Albany Med Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. “And there’s a hopeful takeaway here, too.

“Patients described as ‘consistently meeting physical activity guidelines’ had better outcomes,” he said. “This doesn’t mean they were out running marathons, necessarily. It just means they were engaging in regular physical activity. And that can be attainable for all of us. I’m living proof.”

While Bowen frequently works with athletes (he is a team physician for the UAlbany sports program and is also helping organizers prepare for the Lake Placid Ironman later this summer), he is equally adept at relating to those who struggle to fit exercise into their daily lives. A busy physician and father of three, he’s faced the same challenges himself, and he offers this advice:

Think About What Will Complement Your Daily Routine

“If you’re working from home or at an office, consider taking short time outs to move or stretch. Arm circles, wall push-ups, yoga stretches, even simply standing up and sitting down multiple times—an exercise called a box squat—help you gain the 22 minutes of daily exercise recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Most of my free time is spent with my family, trying to keep my kids active and, by return, staying active myself. I try to engage in sports with them and teach them new skills. If I go to their games, I try to get up and move around, not be sedentary.

If you’re at home and feeling ‘pandemic fatigue,’ don’t forget that simple daily living gives you the chance to keep things moving in a positive direction. You may not consider cleaning, yard work or gardening ‘exercise,’ but it is physical activity. That counts. Exercise can be cumulative. You can get bits and pieces of it throughout the day.

The Gym Is Not a Prerequisite
“Try to get away from the mentality that you have to go to the gym to exercise. Walking briskly is one of the most accessible and health-boosting forms of exercise there is.

Are there any new activities or sports that intrigue you? Martial arts? An adult league or group that meets for pickup games in a favorite sport? With summer coming, there is plenty of opportunity to get outdoors. Last year, my family and I discovered rail biking in the Adirondacks and we had a blast."

Exercise Is Its Own Reward

“An added bonus of exercise is that it helps you maintain a healthy weight, and there are other benefits that outweigh even that. I don’t look at exercise as weight loss tool, in fact. I look at it as a life tool. As my colleague Jennifer Lindstrom, MD, medical director of Bariatric Surgery, likes to say, ‘You can’t out exercise a bad diet.’ Healthy eating choices tend to go a longer way toward meeting those goals. But exercise helps, of course. And its other benefits are enormous. It helps with mood, anxiety, depression, heart disease, lung disease—and now, as we’re learning, with Covid. It really is its own reward.”