With the vaccinated but unfit continuing to die from Covid-19 at a significant rate, isn’t it about time someone asked how many lives might have been saved if political leaders had spent even half the effort advising people to start exercising and get their weight down to normal instead of spending so much time hectoring them to get vaccinated?
Where things stand today, the whole pandemic wreaks of the major flaw in Western medicine, the disregard for evolutionary realities in favor of a search for magic-bullet medicines.
Our species spent hundreds of thousands of years evolving as an animal constantly on the move. Natural selection invariably favors the fit, and the human immune system evolved in lockstep with this reality.
We know this from studies conducted in the here and now to track immunosenescence, the natural decay of the immune system which is part of our death programming. And though we might not like to accept this idea, we are programmed to die just like every other living thing on this planet because the planetary ecosystem revolves around death and life equally.
When and how we die depends to a significant degree on luck, but there are things we can do to improve the odds. Many of the deaths from what we have come to call “accidents” are avoidable because most accidents aren’t accidents at all; they are instead the simple consequences of people making bad decisions.
Likewise, many of the diseases regularly killing people before the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged to drive the Covid-19 pandemic had already been linked to the Western world’s ongoing epidemics of obesity, loss of fitness or both, as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and some physicians have been pointing out for years.
We were warned
This link between disease, age and immunosenescence was well established before the pandemic began.
“…Many protective immune responses are impaired in old age, leading to an increased risk of infection,” researchers reported in the peer-reviewed journal of Aging Clinical and Experimental Research in 2014. “Recent studies have suggested that endurance training in later life is associated with a lesser age-related decline in certain aspects of circulating T cell function and related cytokine production. It is important that the dose of physical activity needed to optimize immune function be defined more clearly at various points during the aging process both in females and males in order to optimize the immune function and to prevent any rise in adverse effects of exercise on the elderly population.”
By now, everyone should be familiar with T cells – the natural frontline defense against new infectious diseases such as SARS-CoV-2 – and the nature of the majority of those dead of Covid-19. At this point, according to the latest CDC data, 63 percent of the more than 1 million dead in the U.S. were age 65 or older.
These were people whose immune systems were destined to be suffering from natural decay no matter what they did, but some were in greater states of decay than others due to the lack of exercise and/or obesity. And a significant share of the 29 percent of the dead aged 50 to 64, according to CDC data, were suffering from chronic illnesses, many of which were in turn tied to lack of fitness and/or obesity, which often lead to what is now being called “metabolic syndrome.”
The connection between basic physical fitness and deaths from Covid-19 has been known since early in the pandemic. Researchers in the United Kingdom using data from more than 400,000 Brits with files in that country’s Biobank were reporting on the protective benefits of exercise way back in the summer of 2020 as the pandemic was just beginning.
They found a direct link between walking pace, a simple measure of fitness, and death. Obesity, they noted, was a Covid-19 risk factor, but lack of fitness even more so.
“Compared to normal-weight individuals,” they reported, “the adjusted odds ratio (OR) for severe Covid-19 in those with obesity was 1.49. Compared to those with a brisk walking pace, the OR in slow walkers was 1.84.
“Slow walkers had the highest risk of severe Covid-19 regardless of obesity status. For example, compared to normal weight brisk walkers, the odds of severe COVID-19 in obese brisk walkers was 1.39, whereas the odds in normal weight slow walkers was 2.48.”
In other words, and in simple English, lack of fitness more than doubled one’s odds of suffering severe Covid-19. Their pre-vaccine research showed fitnesses to be almost as protective against severe Covid-19 as the vaccines that were eventually to come.
Those vaccines only further lowered the risks of Covid-19 for the fit, but vaccinated people are continuing to die, and they have something in common with most of the people dead since the pandemic began: lack of fitness.
Researchers in Tunisia, reporting in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Infectious Diseases late last month, noted the parallels between the vaccinated dead of Covid-19 now and the many who died before vaccines became available.
“Our current study presents multiple valuable Covid-19-related associations in the group of vaccinated Covid-19 patients during the study period,” they wrote. “First, critical Covid-19 disease was noticed in older age groups regardless of vaccination status. Second, the severe or critical cases rate of 35 percent and 16 percent was significantly higher among males in the age classes 60–74 years and 75 years or older, respectively, than female participants although the percentage of fully vaccinated patients was higher in males than females in these categories of age. Findings in the literature indicated that the male gender is a risk factor for serious Covid-19 disease that is explained by the differences in immunity response, the role of sex hormones, and gender-related behavior.”
Human males, as with the males of most other mammalian species, invariably die at younger ages than females. Wildlife ecologists who published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science in 2020 reported that after examining “age-specific mortality estimates for 134 populations of 101 species spanning the wide diversity of orders existing in mammals,” they “found that females have on average an adult median lifespan 18.6 percent longer than males in wild mammals.”
They could not, however, determine if the earlier deaths of males were due to more rapid aging or higher rates of natural mortality. The gender relationships are complicated. In Alaska, for instance, male moose sometimes die while jousting for the chance to breed females, or expend so much energy during fall, mating-season battles that they become vulnerable to death from starvation in a severe winter.
A comfortable world
Death from starvation, once common for our species, is now rare among humans living in First World countries, but the so-called “sedentary lifestyle” that has accompanied our ever-easier lives has been causing increasing numbers of deaths for decades.
A meta-analysis of “13 studies of sitting time and activity levels…found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to that posed by obesity and smoking,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
The development of auto-centric cities started this shift to increased sitting time that then ballooned with the arrival of television and exploded in the Information Age as video games and internet access became widely available.
A 2019 study of sitting time in the U.S. concluded that the total time spent sitting increased about an hour per day from 2007 to 2016 with adolescents by that point spending 8.2 hours per day seated and adults 6.4 hours.
Despite pre-pandemic warnings from the CDC that Americans sit too much, there are no indications that sedentary activity has decreased. The pandemic appears to have only increased the time people spend sitting.
A meta-analysis of studies looking at sitting times from the start of the pandemic through mid-2021 concluded that children increased their sedentary time by 159.5 minutes (more than two and a half hours) per day, adults by 126.9 minutes (more than two hours) per day, and older adults by 45 minutes per day.
“Moreover,” added researchers who published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “increases in sedentary time as a result of COVID-19 restrictions were weakly, but significantly, correlated to poorer qualify of life, global mental health, depression, and likelihood of seizures. Therefore, as restrictions ease there should be a focus on re-engaging everybody with physical activity and encouraging the breaking up of prolonged sedentary periods to improve both physical and mental well-being.”
“Re-engaging everybody with physical activity?” That might suggest people were engaged before the pandemic. Most weren’t. Most aren’t. And no one in power wants to tell them what they need to hear.
On the right, any effort to make communities more walkable and/or bikeable to get people moving is seen as an assault on the automobiles that built America, and on the idea that everyone should have the freedom to drive everywhere all the time and preferably at a high rate of speed.
On the left, the social warriors have embraced “fat acceptance” even as fat is destroying the quality of people’s lives on the way to leading them toward an early grave.
Thus Covid-19 appears destined to become just another of those common diseases that prey heavily on those with metabolic syndrome, and it’s not like anyone in the medical community is unaware. Take it from Pfizer, which when it isn’t pushing its vaccine is pushing its anti-viral drug – Paxlovid – with the warning that:
“Covid-19. Some people get it, and some people can get it bad. And for those who do get it bad, it may be because they have a high risk factor such as heart disease, diabetes, being overweight, ashtma or smoking. Even if symptoms feel mild, these factors can increase your risk of Covid-19 turning severe. So if you’re at high risk and test positive, don’t wait. Ask your healthcare provider right away if an authorized oral treatment is right for you.”
God forbid anyone would tell Americans to get up and get moving to break free of those high-risk factors or prevent them from developing.