Today’s Nonsense: Diet and Exercise to Fight COVID-19

Prescriptions for diet and exercise have worked so well for preventing obesity that some folks are selling them for fighting COVID-19. Headlines suggesting this strategy are popping up too often in lifestyle and health reporting. For example, the Wicked Local News in Beverly, Massachusetts, tells us:

While not much is known yet about fighting COVID-19, we do know that exercise has been helpful during previous flu epidemics.

We hear that yoga is great for this purpose, too. Wouldn’t you like to learn “six yoga poses to strengthen your immune system” for “COVID-19 prevention”?

Staying Active in the Pandemic

Steps Per WeekMake no mistake, good self care is a great thing to focus upon in this time of physical isolation. We are keeping our distance and spending a lot of time at home. Step counts at ConscienHealth are up by more than 50 percent. Long, solitary walks are keeping us sane.

But they’re not preventing a single coronavirus infection. Nope, for that, we’re relying on CDC recommendations: physical isolation, hand washing, face masks, cleaning, and covering coughs and sneezes. It’s all pretty simple, but effective.

Boosting the Immune System?

Magical thinking drives people to imagine we can boost our immune systems to fight off this virus. So MedicineNet Health News is offering up an account of the “foods, vitamins, and routines” that “work best” for “boosting your immune system from COVID-19.”


Of course, taking good care of yourself is always a good idea. Diet and exercise are helpful. But far more helpful is good ongoing medical care for the chronic diseases that so many of us live with. Hopefully, you’re already getting that. Even if you’re not, it’s never too late. We’re in this for the long haul.

A Lousy Substitute

For the posh, bored, and privileged, all this chatter about diet and exercise to boost one’s immune system might be a welcome distraction. If you’re already working from home or sheltering in a safe, isolated haven, then have at it. Amuse yourself with this nonsense.

But there are real working people who are not so fortunate. Doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, and grocery clerks are out there working and putting themselves at risk. Some do it out of a sense of duty. Some might feel that they have no other option.

For them, diet and exercise to prevent COVID-19 is a lousy substitute for real protection. Protective gear, along with workplace health and safety, is what really matters.

Prescribing diet and exercise to prevent COVID-19 is an insult to our intelligence.

Click here and here for more on bogus COVID-19 solutions, tests, and gear.

Nonsense, illustration by Edward Lear / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


April 10, 2020

2 Responses to “Today’s Nonsense: Diet and Exercise to Fight COVID-19”

  1. April 23, 2020 at 9:29 pm, Ajit Venniyoor said:

    I hope you don’t think that the New Scientist also publishes poppycock, as in their 28 March issue, they did publish a story on how exercise and diet can improve your immunity.
    Seemed to be an evidence based article.

    • April 24, 2020 at 4:49 am, Ted said:

      Perhaps the article you’re referring to is “How to fight infection by turning back your immune system’s clock,” by Graham Lawton. While this article is mildly entertaining and full of interesting speculation, it provides no evidence to support some bold claims about preventing or reversing the effects of age on a person’s immune system. Any suggestion that “turning back your immune system’s clock” is a viable strategy for fighting COVID-19 is indeed poppycock.

      But if you’re referring to some more profound publication, please inform us.