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Opinion ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 29 October 2020 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.566032

COVID-19 and Quarantine: Expanding Understanding of How to Stay Physically Active at Home

  • 1Post Graduate Program of University Center of Anápolis (UniEVANGÉLICA), Anápolis, Brazil
  • 2Physical Education Department of Universidade Paulista (UNIP–Campus Flamboyant), Goiânia, Brazil
  • 3Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICB), University of São Paulo (USP), São Paulo, Brazil
  • 4Faculty of Physical Education and Sport, Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias (ULHT), Lisbon, Portugal
  • 5Intercontinental Neuroscience Research Group, Mérida, Mexico
  • 6Department of Human Kinetics, ESECS, Polytechnic of Leiria, Leiria, Portugal
  • 7Research Center in Sport, Health and Human Development (CIDESD), Vila Real, Portugal
  • 8Sport Science School of Rio Maior (ESDRM-IPSantarém), Rio Maior, Portugal
  • 9Cognitive and Clinical Psychology Laboratory, Department of Human Science, European University of Rome, Rome, Italy
  • 10Graduate School of Technology, Industrial and Social Sciences, Tokushima University, Tokushima, Japan
  • 11Escuela de Medicina, División Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad Anáhuac Mayab, Yucatán, Mexico
  • 12Faculty of Sport Sciences and Physical Education, University of A Coruña, A Coruña, Spain
  • 13Faculty of Human Sciences, Medical School Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 14Laboratory of Physical Activity Neuroscience, Physical Activity Sciences Postgraduate Program of Salgado de Oliveira University (PPGCAF/UNIVERSO), Niterói, Brazil
  • 15Laboratory of Physical Activity Neuroscience, Neurodiversity Institute, Queimados, Brazil

Current Scenario

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is today the biggest public health challenge in the world (Park, 2020). The first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed on December 8, 2019, in Hubei province, China. From that day, in just over 3 months, the virus has spread to more than 177 countries/areas/territories around the world, with more than 266,073 confirmed cases and 11,184 deaths, according to WHO on March 21, 2020 (WHO, 2020). The most common clinical manifestations of COVID-19 are mild flu-like illness, potentially lethal acute respiratory distress syndrome, or fulminant pneumonia. As a result, numerous countries have decided to implement (some by government decrees, as well as martial laws) the establishment of mandatory social distance in a family environment, closing non-essential commercial environments, in an attempt to reduce the peak of the infection curve (Lewnard and Lo, 2020).

We know that a large part of the world population is far from the minimum conditions of physical exercise recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) to improve the health component (Katzmarzyk et al., 2019). This fact would give important relevance to the level of physical activity exercised by the population throughout the day. However, once the extreme hypokinetic behavior is implemented as a result of the quarantine, a cycle of perverse events begins, making part of the population more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of acute and chronic diseases, including respiratory tract infections (Hall et al., 2020).

In a recent position paper presented by Chen et al. (2020), the authors try to propose to the general population to continue exercising regardless of the current moment the world is living. In fact, as the authors mention, based on other researchers, “anything is better than nothing,” and the sedentary lifestyle is something that should not be encouraged, i.e., any energy expenditure added to the routine of these people would be significant. Recommendations for the population to keep regularly active highlight only a minimum applicable technical basis, without presenting any suitable parameters for carrying them out. From the initial positioning of Chen et al. (2020), the ACSM via publication on the website of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (ACSM, 2020; WHO, 2020), as well as other institutions (ACSM, 2020; WHO, 2020), expanded the proposal about the practice of physical exercise to be performed at home. Tasks such as brisk walking, up and down stairs, dance, jump rope, yoga exercises, and bodyweight strength training are also recommended for indoor workout (Table 1).

TABLE 1
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Table 1. Recommendations for exercising at home.

Expanding Recommendations for Practicing Exercise at Home

The suggestions proposed by the ACSM (2020), WHO (2020), although more consistent, still do not offer a concrete logic to be applied and controlled. Moreover, the statement “Some activity is better than none” makes more sense when we talk about people practicing any physical activity at a beginner level, therefore merely minimally physically active (Chen et al., 2020). Thus, for practitioners of physical exercise at levels that require moderate to high metabolic and strength demand, or even athletes, these would be susceptible to detraining. According to the basic premises related to training, an ideal stimulus must be administered for the adaptation to occur properly, and that condition may not be prioritized with such positions.

Considering the theoretical rationale prevalent in the literature, we believe that the suggestions proposed can be expanded in order to integrate groups of individuals who have moderate to high physical conditioning and not only sedentary individuals, providing better guidance on how to proceed during the quarantine period and offering the possibility of follow-up training even after the quarantine has ended. For such, the conviction that traditional strategies of aerobic endurance exercise may not be a suitable strategy for application in the residential environment (understanding that majority of the population does not have stationary bikes, arm or rowing ergometers at home), so the interval exercise pattern should be primarily stimulated, with or without the use of any viable resource of overload implementation. In combination with this proposal, the concomitant increase in intensity (vigorous to high intensity) is also essential to promote adaptive results independently of the initial fitness level.

The effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are well-established in the literature for healthy people (Gormley et al., 2008) and those with some comorbidity (obesity, heart disease, diabetics) (Ballesta Garcia et al., 2019; Taylor et al., 2019). More recently, the effects of HIIT have been presented in sedentary individuals, suggesting that the application of interval exercises would be viable, consolidating itself as an important strategy for health promotion (Dorneles et al., 2019; Reljic et al., 2019). The literature shows significant physiological responses derived from different types of interval protocols (Paoli et al., 2012; Buckley et al., 2015; Box et al., 2019), and the improvement in performance seems to be related to the physiological mechanism of inducing mitochondrial biogenesis from the expression of the PGC-1 alpha transcription co-activator, as well as catalyzing enzymes of both the glycolytic and oxidative systems (Gibala et al., 2006; Gibala, 2009). Such adaptations promote greater efficiency metabolic rate in energy production and buffering capacity.

In a new perspective, evidence indicates that HIIT performed with body weight can promote significant adjustments in strength, hypertrophy (Kikuchi and Nakazato, 2017), and the cardiorespiratory system. For instance, the Tabata protocol would fit as an interesting tool to be performed at home (Tabata et al., 1996). Basically, it consists of performing stimulus 8 × 20 s interspersed with 10-s recovery, a total of 4 min. The protocol is still performed more than once during an exercise session and with different exercise compositions. Emberts et al. (2013) reported mean values of 74% of VO2max [rate perceived exertion (RPE) averaged 15.4 ± 1.3] and 86% of HRmax (156 ± 13 bpm) during two types of Tabata workouts (e.g., mountain climbers, push-ups, split squat, box jumps, burpees, squats, lunges, Russian twist). This level of workout is a sufficient stimulus to generate adaptations to the cardiorespiratory component, and these data are superior to the recommendations proposed by the ACSM. Moreover, the increase in intensity seems to be the key to maintain the gains obtained before COVID-19 (Hickson et al., 1985).

To better target the perspective postulated here in our article, as well as to better interpret the designs positioned in Table 2, Buckley et al. (2015) proposed a high-intensity multimodal training format as a way to reduce the time required for multiple adaptations. For this, the authors compared the physiological responses of the traditional HIIT performed in a rowing ergometer versus multimodal training, involving analysis of different manifestations of strength, in addition to maximum aerobic power and anaerobic capacity. Thirty-two recreational trained participants performed 60 s “all out” and a 3-min recovery (total of 4 min per series). The multimodal HIIT protocol was configured as follows: a strength exercise for 4–6 repetitions, an accessory movement for 8–10 repetitions, and a metabolic component conducted all out for the remainder of the 60 s. The results were significantly promising, resulting in similar responses in aerobic and anaerobic performance tests; however, multimodal HIIT showed significant improvement in all parameters of different manifestations of strength.

TABLE 2
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Table 2. Proposal of exercises for workouts configuration.

It is suggested, therefore, that the configuration of multimodal workouts be constructed in a similar way to that reported in the literature, and the control of exercise overload (internal load) would be performed based on the RPE (0–10 in combination with session time (Foster et al., 2001). Table 2 shows a coherent exercise division format, and Table 3 shows examples of training session configurations.

TABLE 3
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Table 3. Examples of training session configurations based on intensity control from internal load.

Can Exercise Intensity Compromise the Immune System?

Finally, establishing the relationship between the stresses generated from physical exercise at home and the immune system is an important point to be considered during this quarantine period (Amatriain-Fernandez et al., 2020a,b). Nieman (2007) proposes an open window of alteration of the immune system after physical exercise, and such manifestation would occur with significant magnitude in the face of long-lasting endurance, such as in a marathon, or also in the face of extremely heavy efforts. However, little is known about the immune responses to short interval exercise, but current evidence suggests that HIIT seems to be beneficial for the immune system (Bartlett et al., 2017, 2018; Born et al., 2017; Durrer et al., 2017; Dorneles et al., 2019; Steckling et al., 2019; Khammassi et al., 2020), although evidence still points to a higher increase in the percentage of leukocytosis after HIIT exercise (Jamurtas et al., 2018).

So, Bartlett et al. (2017) investigated in 27 sedentary adult individuals the potential of immune response induced by continuous aerobic training of moderate intensity (MICT) and HIIT (volume 57% smaller). After 10 weeks, there was a significant improvement in the capacity of bacterial phagocytosis by neutrophils (+16 vs. +15%, respectively, for HIIT and MICT) and monocytes (14 vs. 19%, respectively, for HIIT and MICT) for both training groups. Also with a more recent perspective, Born et al. (2017) demonstrated that HIIT, in addition to the superior adaptive responses on the ability to perform exercise (time to exhaustion—p = 0.02; VO2Maxp = 0.01), induced functional immunoglobin-A adaptations following 4 days of training in recreational adult runners. Furthermore, HIIT promotes similar inflammatory responses after exercise compared to traditional endurance training, suggesting its viability as a training strategy (Kaspar et al., 2016; Bartlett et al., 2017). However, an adequate progression of intensity is suggested to avoid deleterious effects due to high doses of exercise. In the workout model recommended here, despite the fact that it is called high-intensity interval exercise, the effective physiological impact (product of volume vs. intensity) is reasonably small (main workout). Moreover, such proposals mainly focus on recreational trained people. In line with this, several studies have shown significant findings in favor of HIIT protocols when compared to moderate-intensity exercise, showing how the immunological system responds to vigorous to high-intensity training with very short duration (Table 4).

TABLE 4
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Table 4. Main positive and negative results from the perspective of HIIT and the changes resulting from this training model.

Future Perspectives

It is reasonable to think that HIIT can also be adjusted to improve physical fitness and health in individuals with low levels of fitness (Gormley et al., 2008), as well as for overweight and obese people, according to the trend facing this pandemic (Wewege et al., 2017). First, it is important to understand that the term high intensity should not necessarily be interpreted as a high effort (that would generate limiting condition), since the effort depends on the ratio between intensity and time. In the case of protocols with neuromuscular characteristics, it is possible to establish a suitable threshold for each fitness pattern, mainly controlling the pace with which the movements are performed or the time spent in each stimulus. For cyclic aerobic exercise, the external load, related to the percentage level of VO2Max required by the coach, is in high physical demand, while the internal load, referring to internal perceptions and changes, can modulate a perceived effort to tolerable levels (Foster et al., 2001). Thus, considering the non-prolonged exposure to high-intensity stimuli, we were able to produce significant results for the cardiorespiratory component (Buchheit and Laursen, 2013), as well as important functional adaptations to the immune system (Bartlett et al., 2017), and promote greater adherence to exercise by individuals with a lower level of fitness (Hartman et al., 2019). Therefore, HIIT is expected to be recognized from a safe and effective dose–response perspective (Taylor et al., 2019) as a potential tool for the improvement of the immune system and consequently for the prevention of respiratory diseases.

Author Contributions

AS participated in the conception of the idea and complete writing of the article, along with SB, CdP, and TM. SM, DT, DM, LC, and CI participated in numerous reviews of this study. CI, TY, and SA participated in the suggestions and the final writing of the article and the adequacy and submission of the study. HB, EM-R, and SM were the main advisers and tutors of all trajectory of studies and designing all phases of the study. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

Funding

SM was supported by a grant from Carlos Chagas Foundation for the Research Support in the State of Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ), Young Scientists from the State of Rio de Janeiro, E-26/203.295/2017.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Keywords: COVID-19, HIIT (high intensity interval training), aerobic exercise, Tabata protocol, sedentarism

Citation: Sá Filho AS, Miranda TG, de Paula CC, Barsanulfo SR, Teixeira D, Monteiro D, Cid L, Imperatori C, Yamamoto T, Murillo-Rodriguez E, Amatriain Fernández S, Budde H and Machado S (2020) COVID-19 and Quarantine: Expanding Understanding of How to Stay Physically Active at Home. Front. Psychol. 11:566032. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.566032

Received: 26 May 2020; Accepted: 07 September 2020;
Published: 29 October 2020.

Edited by:

Ricardo De La Vega Marcos, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain

Reviewed by:

Leandro De Oliveira Sant'Ana, Juiz de Fora Federal University, Brazil
Antonio Hernández-Mendo, University of Malaga, Spain

Copyright © 2020 Sá Filho, Miranda, de Paula, Barsanulfo, Teixeira, Monteiro, Cid, Imperatori, Yamamoto, Murillo-Rodriguez, Amatriain Fernández, Budde and Machado. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Alberto Souza Sá Filho, doutor.alberto@outlook.com