Amid the news related to the current coronavirus crisis comes some promising research: Regular exercise may reduce the risk of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a critical COVID-19 complication.

The review findings from the University of Virginia School of Medicine have the potential to influence COVID-19 treatment and recovery, since an estimated 20%–42% of hospitalized patients will develop ARDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The focus of the study was an antioxidant known as extracellular superoxide dismutase (EcSOD), which destroys harmful free radicals, thereby protecting bodily tissues and helping to prevent disease. Muscles naturally secrete EcSOD, but cardiovascular exercise enhances its production.

Research suggests that even a single movement bout increases EcSOD production—underscoring the importance of exercising to mobilize the body’s natural defenses while social-distancing measures are in place.

The review was published in the scientific journal Redox Biology (2020; 32, 101508).