The world’s largest study of its kind found that regular physical activity cuts the risk of dying from infectious diseases such as Covid-19 by 37 per cent, and the risk of catching them by 31 per cent.
The findings, published in the Sports Medicine Journal, have been sent to the Scottish Government as experts called for more public awareness about the positive effects of exercise.
Researchers from GCU, University College London (UCL) and Ghent University in Belgium reviewed almost 17,000 epidemiological studies published around the world between January 1980 and April last year.
They found 30 minutes of activity five days a week, or 150 minutes per week, can have a significant impact on immunity to infectious diseases such as Covid-19.
The exercise does not need to be running or going to the gym, but it must get you slightly out of breath.
Professor Sebastian Chastin, who led the study, said: “You don’t need to go to a gym, as dancing around the living room, going for a run or walk is just as effective.
"In this period of the pandemic, being outside is better than in a gym or closed environment.
“The clear message is stay active – it’s not only good for your mental and general health, but we now have the proof that it is also good for boosting your immunity. You need to keep it up as it’s about regular exercise and making time to build it into your day.”
Prof Chastin added: “This research is hugely significant and could help to cut the number people contracting Covid-19 and dying from it.
"It is the first piece of research that proves regular physical activity protects you against infectious disease.
“We found that regular exercise where you get out of breath boosts your immunity to infectious disease by 31 per cent and it increases the number of immune cells in the body in the first line of defence, which is the mucosal layer of antibodies.
"These cells are responsible for identifying foreign agents in the body without depressing the rest of the immune system, so it’s perfectly safe and protects you against infectious disease.”