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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Dr. Aaronson Suggests Virtually Riding on Zwift with Shane Miller (GPLama) and Von to Mitigate Your Risk During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Dr. Michael Aaronson biking on Zwift. Screenshot taken May 3rd, 2020. Dr. Aaronson is currently at level 29 on Zwift. His goal is to achieve level 50. 
I insist on doing everything I can to stay healthy during this pandemic. I need to be cautious and try to mitigate my risk of developing Covid-19, so I can stay healthy and take care of the patients I serve. We can all try to do our best to stay healthy and avoid contracting the virus.

One strategy to defeat the virus is to get or stay motivated and exercise, trying to be as fit as you can. Why? Your chances are improved if you are in better shape, especially if you are at higher risk (see below). Said another way, if you get coronavirus there are ways to improve your chances of fighting the virus.

Some have argued that we may have at least 2 more years of this "new normal way of life (read more)."  Based on these articles, if at least 60-70% of the population needs to be infected (to achieve herd immunity) or an effective vaccine needs to be discovered and people immunized before we can go back to the way things were, I would suggest that you become as healthy as you can during this period of time through diet and exercise to improve your chances for survival. So if you, or when you, contract the disease, your chances of experiencing a mild case of Covid-19 are more likely than a severe one. I have been offering this generalized stay healthy advice for years, but now it is more important than ever.

This approach to indoor exercise is easier said than done. Getting and staying on a bike, that is, keeping motivated, is hard to do. The more ways we have to stay motivated and burn calories and work the cardiovascular system, the better off we are.

Here is what we know about who is at higher risk from the CDC, and I'll cut and paste the risk factors that are important to a kidney-based practice. However, and with that said, in general, if you have health problems, or you are older, you are at risk. Here is the list of what makes a person higher risk from a kidney perspective:

  • People 65 years and older
  • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
  • People with diabetes
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis

What can a person do to try to mitigate or lessen their risk of getting very sick if they contract Covid-19? What am I doing? Well, what you might try, and what I'm doing, is exercising at home using interactive cycling software like Zwift, Rouvy, and Fulgaz. I am able to decrease exposure risk (I'm not around others). At the same time, I am trying to improve the risk factors that can be improved, namely, avoiding becoming overweight.

Said another way, you can't change your age. However, you can change your weight through exercise and diet. You can also maintain your weight using this strategy.

But Dr. Aaronson, I have Zwift, and I am still bored riding indoors. Yes, biking can be boring over time, regardless of how hard Zwift tries to challenge you, or how many gorgeous scenes Rouvy presents to you, or from a personal perspective, how many times Fulgaz reminds me of my recent trip to Australia.

Dr. Aaronson at the Moeraki Boulders. 

Dr. Aaronson with the Lazy Sunbathers -- Morrissey on YouTube in Australia.

So to help my biking experience without getting too technical, I have started having some "company" during my rides. While biking on Zwift, I like to watch Shane Miller and his wife, Von, from Australia livestream their Zwift rides on YouTube. I perform my ride either during their livestream or afterwards. (Given the time difference, I sometimes watch the recorded stream. Historians note: Dr. Aaronson is in Lincoln, Nebraska which is central time, so that's a 15-hour difference.)
I take the cue from
Certain people I know
I use the cue
And then I
Hand it on to you...
Certain People I Know Live -- Morrissey YouTube

If watching live, you can ask questions or comment to be part of the conversation. If you want to watch older episodes, they are available. If you prefer other platforms, Shane offers livestream options on Twitch or Facebook live.

Why does this work? Why not watch Netflix instead? Well, you can. But this approach is different in that it makes you feel like you are riding with people. It feels like discord (Zwift's online chatting app), but adds the visual component with less setup and is always there for you.

Sidebar: I have found this channel to be helpful learning how to navigate through Zwift and learn about hardware that works with the program. You also get to spend quality time with Shane Miller and his wife Von. They have a lovely family.

In conclusion, and to reiterate, you want to find ways to motivate yourself to keep yourself fit during this crisis. One way to stay motivated and add another dimension to your indoor biking experience is to watch Shane's Zwift livestream. It really does help pass the time.

Furthermore, if you are waiting for a trainer (there is currently a world-wide shortage), power pedals, or for cadence and speed sensors to arrive so that you can retrofit an older excise bike and are planning to join Zwift in the future, consider getting on that stationary bike now. You can turn on Shane's YouTube channel and start spinning. Once your devices get to your home, you can connect and really immerse yourself in the experience, but the time to get started is now.

How Soon is Now? -- Morrissey / The Smiths on YouTube.