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Written by Brian Mastroianni on May 26, 2021 — Fact checked by Maria Gifford

Many people have embraced running as a regular form of exercise during the pandemic. Getty Images
  • A number of people started running as a regular form of exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • For new runners, experts suggest ramping up slowly rather than beginning at a higher intensity to avoid injury and burnout.
  • It’s normal to feel self-conscious about your form or your body’s gradual adjustment to withstanding the demands of a new activity like running.

For many people, their approach to physical activity and exercise shifted during the pandemic.

From embracing home workouts to navigating how to return to exercise after recovering from COVID-19, the pandemic has reoriented our relationships to physical activity.

Running has been a big part of this. The period of gym closures and shelter-in-place guidelines led people to embrace running as a new part of their routine — many for the first time.

In fact, a recent survey from athletic shoe review company RunRepeat suggests we’re experiencing something of a pandemic-era “running boom.”

If you were one of the many who took on a new — often rigorous — physical activity like running during the pandemic, it’s important to keep your overall health and physical safety in mind.

Experts say it’s all about being mindful of things like incorporating running organically into your routine, doing stretching and warmup exercises, and picking appropriate footwear to ensure you avoid injury and stay motivated to keep running a regular part of your life beyond the pandemic.https://9389be5fa22a5221751ae774f36a2f0d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Are we in a pandemic-era ‘running boom’?

For its survey, RunRepeat reached out to 3,961 current runners to assess how the pandemic affected their running behaviors.

Among the findings, 28.76 percent of current runners said they started the physical activity during the pandemic.

Beyond this, physical health was the key motivator for running: 72 percent of new pandemic-era runners cited health as the main factor for why they took up the activity.

This is up about 18 percent from runners who started before the pandemic.

Running for mental or emotional health was the second-highest motivator, with 54.52 percent of new runners citing that as their motivation, which is actually less than pre-pandemic runners, who were at 64 percent.

“During the pandemic, there was this conflict of everything you did centered around your health being at risk. Just going to the grocery store meant I had to be concerned about my health, and doing everything I could to ensure the health of my friends and family — do I do this or don’t go at all?’” said Nick Rizzo, RunRepeat’s fitness research director, about how concerns about physical health filtered into every aspect of life during the pandemic.

He added this means it shouldn’t be so surprising that new runners put physical health as a main motivator, given it was front and foremost in all our minds at all times during the pandemic.

Rizzo said the pandemic “provided the perfect opportunity” for people to foster a new habit like running.

“These new people, they’re just getting started, and this is the first time where gyms are closed, all other options like recreational sports shut down for the most part. All of these opportunities and avenues that people had to choose from were being restricted,” Rizzo told Healthline.

As a result, running became an accessible, relatively safe option. It’s an activity that can be performed outside alone without being surrounded by a big group of people sweating indoors at a gym, for instance.

Heather Milton, a board certified clinical exercise physiologist at New York University Langone’s Sports Performance Center in New York City, told Healthline that, anecdotally, she observed many friends and acquaintances embrace running as an “outlet for getting out of the house, getting some activity with multiple benefits outside of just improving aerobic capacity.”

In general, both Milton and Rizzo explained the pandemic brought running more to the forefront for people who might have shied away from it in the first place.HEALTHLINE CHALLENGECreate a movement routine that you can do at home

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Safety first: Reducing the risk of running injuries

Adopting a new physical activity like running into your exercise regimen comes with a few guiding principles for staying safe and injury-free.

Milton said she notices new runners tend to go out and start running without fully thinking about safety.

For example, she said a lot of people start running with the kinds of casual sneakers “they’ve been wearing for 5 years” without investing in “running sneakers designed specifically for your runs.”

She said running shoes give your body the support it needs from the physical impact of running. Shoes built for running offer protection from the impact of our feet hitting the pavement, with our body weight coupled with gravity causing a ripple effect through the rest of the body.

“Shoes do help with that, and of course your running form helps as well,” Milton added. “If it feels your body isn’t ready for the impact of running, it means you don’t have the core stability and strength in your legs you need — your hips, your core muscles, your abs, and the muscles that support your spine — which can lead to injury if you increase your running volume quickly.”

Trying to embrace running too quickly and too often without being conditioned for it can mean setting yourself up for injury.

Milton explained it’s important to pay keen attention to how much and often you run. She said to ease into running if you’re just starting out, and pay attention to your body if it appears you’re adding too much to your plate.

Another big component of running safety is warming up. Milton stressed that you incorporate a “dynamic warmup” that activates your muscles before going on a run. This is important for experienced and novice runners alike.

If you’re seated working from home before your run, make sure you do some hip extension exercises to activate your hip muscles, for instance.

Also, do some simple ankle flexion and extension exercises as well as core exercises before a run. This is important, because you need to use all those muscles when you go for a run.

“These only need to be 3 to 5 minutes. There’s research that shows that’s all you really need to improve your ability once you start your run,” Milton said.https://9389be5fa22a5221751ae774f36a2f0d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Maintaining a new behavior

One of the big challenges of incorporating something like running into your regular routine is ensuring you maintain that behavior.

Rizzo, a competitive powerlifter for 7 years, only just started running himself about 6 months ago. He said it’s important to ease into a new activity and be kind and realistic with yourself and your expectations.

It’s normal to feel self-conscious about your form or your body’s gradual adjustment to withstanding the demands of a new activity like running. It’s OK to feel uncomfortable. Just gradually add that activity to your regular set of behaviors, he said.

One major finding of RunRepeat’s survey is the changed perspective of races, from in-person to virtual events during the pandemic. New runners were 115.37 percent more in favor of virtual races than more experienced, pre-pandemic runners.

Rizzo said the reduced pressure of training alone at one’s own pace and partaking in virtual activities rather than big in-person events all relates to this idea of self-accountability and personal comfort that’s a big appeal for running newcomers.

If you’re just starting running, don’t expect to complete marathon-level runs every single day of the week. Instead, slow into it and then hit your stride.

Start with easy runs just a couple days a week. Easing into a new behavior and gradually building strength and stamina are ways to ensure it will remain a part of your routine and not just a quick flash in the pan.

Milton said that for new runners, as well as people who have been away from physical activity during the pandemic and are now reintroducing exercise to their routines, moderation is key.

She suggested for those who are cross-training — working on different kinds of physical activities in their workout regimen — run at least 2 days per week.

Don’t try to “get all of your miles in one day — that can be detrimental to your health and increase injury risk,” she said.

By spacing out your runs, you’ll “start to find a routine,” which is especially important for people who had more leniency in their schedule over the past year and are now looking to impose a greater sense of structure.

Again, if you want this to be a sustainable practice in your regular life, impose a routine and make sure it’s manageable, and follow training best practices to maintain your health and avoid injury.

The bottom line

new survey from RunRepeat suggests something of a pandemic-era “running boom,” with people adopting running as a form of exercise as gyms shut down and shelter-in-place mandates went in effect due to COVID-19.

If you’re one of these new runners, exercise specialists stress you emphasize safety first.

Wear shoes designed specifically for running — not those old, casual sneakers — and embrace practices like short, muscle-activating warmup exercises before each run.

If you start a new behavior, it can be hard to maintain it as part of your routine. It’s recommended that you ease into running. Don’t jump into marathon-level runs every day. Instead, gradually run a few times each week for shorter durations until you build stamina.

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How to Exercise at Home If You’re Avoiding the Gym During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Written by Brian Krans on March 13, 2020 — Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell

Experts say there are a number of ways you can get in a full-body workout at home. Getty Images
  • Experts say fitness centers are a great place to get exercise but also a place where something like the new coronavirus can spread.
  • Some gyms have instituted practices to thoroughly clean equipment more often.
  • Fitness experts say there are a number of ways you can get in a full-body workout while exercising at home.

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub and follow our live updates page for the most recent information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working out is often a great way to de-stress at the end of the day and a good way to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

But fears of contracting the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, have many people on edge and avoiding places where they could contract the disease or spread the virus to other people.

On that point, the gym is a place where people can easily pick up other people’s germs.

That’s of particular concern because the new coronavirus causes respiratory illness that can spread by touching surfaces a person with the virus has touched or even via airborne droplets when a person sneezes or coughs.

Dr. Nancy MessonnierTrusted Source, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned peopleTrusted Source Mar. 10 to take basic precautions about limiting their exposure to the virus.

“Take everyday precautions like avoiding close contact with people who are sick, cleaning your hands often, and to the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places,” Messonnier said. “Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.”

What fitness centers are doing

Gyms are often crowded places where many of the surfaces — from free weights to the controls on a treadmill — are touched a lot.

Simply wiping sweat off with a towel isn’t enough to stop the coronavirus and other bugs from spreading.

While a handful of Twitter users report the novel coronavirus hasn’t changed their gym habits, many fitness centers have reached out to their members to tell them the extra preventive steps they’re taking.

That includes closing down.

A case in point is the San Mateo Athletic Club at the College of San Mateo in California.

Earlier this week, the fitness center told its members that it’s following guidelines set by the health department in San Mateo County.

“We have continued to educate the staff members on good hygiene habits: use of gloves and proper disposal, proper cleaning procedures, and use of Clorox wipes at each workstation,” the email read. “These are habits we have practiced for 10 years.”

On Thursday, the San Mateo gym announced it’s temporarily closing.

Nationwide, chains have also been reassuring its members that its spaces are clean and safe.

Planet Fitness says it has “extensive cleanliness policies and procedures in place.”

“Team members conduct regular and thorough cleaning of all equipment, surfaces, and areas of the club and gym floor using disinfectant cleaning supplies,” McCall Gosselin, Planet Fitness’ spokeswoman, told Healthline. “In addition, they regularly complete overnight cleaning of the facility.”

Anytime Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness, two other major national gym chains, didn’t have any coronavirus warnings on their websites, nor did they respond to requests for comment.

Simon Hansen, an experienced athlete, coach, and sports blogger of Best Sports Lounge, said he’s visited the gym less frequently since the COVID-19 outbreak, although he knows people with strong immune systems are less likely to be affected.

“I think that it’s a necessary precaution to take especially since we might unknowingly harm the immunocompromised,” Hansen told Healthline. “However, this doesn’t mean that I’ve removed exercise from my daily routine.”

Instead, he works out at home.CORONAVIRUS UPDATESStay on top of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Exercising at home

If you’re staying at home, you still probably want to continue your workout routine.

Besides the health benefits, it’s also good to stay active to ward off going stir crazy from being cooped up for an extended period of time.

Dr. David Nazarian, who’s board certified in internal medicine and practices in Beverly Hills, said that because the new coronavirus is rapidly spreading, it’s important to take standard precautions to protect yourself.

“Exercise is important for overall healthy well-being, but it is vital to protect yourself from airborne disease, especially new ones such as the coronavirus where effective treatment is still being studied,” he told Healthline.

“If avoiding places that are high risk for transmission of airborne diseases is necessary, there can be alternative options such as working out at home,” he added.

Alexandra Ellis, creator of AE Wellness and host of The Body Nerd Show, said if you’re avoiding the gym for fear of getting sick, there’s a lot you can do at home that requires no equipment.

“Focus on the basics such as planks, pushups, squats, leg lifts, or bicycles and burpees for an easy workout that will build strength and get your heart rate up. My favorite way to build a workout is to do 4 rounds of 5 exercises for 45 seconds of work, followed by 15 seconds of rest,” Ellis told Healthline.

“Choose exercises that target different areas of your body and you’ll have a full-body workout in less than 20 minutes,” she said.

For people looking for more guidance during their home exercise, there are plenty of tutorials available online, whether on YouTube or other portals.

Some people are even responding to COVID-19 and subsequent distancing and quarantine measures.

One such example is the online yoga platform EkhartYoga, which is offering free gentle yoga and meditation classes online to people during the outbreak to help counteract the escalation of stress and anxiety that comes with it.

“We can only begin to imagine the stress of being in isolation,” Esther Ekhart, the platform owner and a yoga teacher, said in a statement to Healthline. “While, thankfully, the majority of us aren’t in physical danger, we can’t fail to escape the news, which in itself can cause worry and anxiety.”HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our twice weekly wellness email

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How Diet, Exercise, and Weight Management Can Add a Decade to Your Life

Written by George Citroner on January 7, 2020 — Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell

Experts say exercising for 30 minutes a day plus not smoking or drinking excessively can increase your years without chronic health issues. Getty Images
  • Researchers say healthy lifestyle habits can add as much as a decade to your life span.
  • The researchers identified five lifestyle factors as important, including diet, exercise, and maintaining a moderate body weight.
  • Experts say the two most important things to avoid are smoking and developing overweight or obesity.

We’d all like to live a long time in good health.

Now a recently published study has concluded there are lifestyle factors that can increase your odds of reaching an older age without chronic health issues.

There’s been plenty of research on lifestyle choices, such as smoking, physical activity, drinking habits, weight management, and diet, that affect our overall life span and likelihood of experiencing chronic diseases.

However, few studies have looked at how a combination of these factors relate to a long life free of disease.

“We wanted to see whether following a healthy diet and exercise can prolong life, not just life expectancy but life expectancy free of chronic diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes,” Dr. Frank Hu, MPH, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Massachusetts and lead study author, told Healthline.

“Because we’re not just looking at life span but also health span, meaning that there are increased years of life free of chronic disease,” he said.

5 crucial health factors

Researchers examined data from roughly 73,000 registered female nurses in the United States from the Nurses’ Health Study and from almost 40,000 male health professionals in the United States from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

The study participants didn’t have cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes when they were enrolled.

Study participants were routinely assessed for new diagnoses and deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes for more than 20 years. Researchers adjusted for age, ethnic background, family medical history, and other considerations.

The low-risk lifestyle factors used to calculate a healthy lifestyle score included:

  • never smoking
  • at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity
  • moderate alcohol intake
  • maintaining a moderate weight (defined as a BMI less than 25)
  • a good quality diet

Adding these five factors together gave a final low-risk lifestyle score ranging from 0 to 5. A higher score indicated a healthier lifestyle.

“Your healthcare provider can help with risk scores that can estimate your risk for death for certain conditions, and evidence-based lifestyle modifications and treatments that can improve conditions,” said Dr. Katrina Miller Parrish, the chief quality and information executive at L.A. Care Health Plan.

“Keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle with low impact, tolerable physical exercise; a good, well-balanced, colorful diet; hydration; and an appropriate amount of sleep can do wonders to help maintain a positive mental outlook and physical state,” Parrish told Healthline.

Increasing your healthy life span

Years of life free from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes at age 50 was 24 years for women who followed none of the low-risk lifestyle factors.

It was 34 years for women who adopted four or five of the factors.

The life expectancy free of these chronic diseases was 24 years among 50-year-old men who followed no low-risk lifestyle factors.

It was 31 years for men who practiced four or five of these healthy habits.

“While hypertension is the number one cause for death throughout the world, many lifestyle changes, such as better diet and exercise, can affect this diagnosis to varying degrees, especially based on regimen and adherence,” Parrish said.

Diet is key

Being selective in what you eat is one of the most important lifestyle factors.

“Foods that are high in fiber have been studied extensively for the benefits that they provide when it comes to cardiovascular health, including blood pressure regulation,” Shelley Wood, MPH, RDN, a clinician at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in California, told Healthline.

Wood explains these foods are plant-based and include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Additionally, legumes, such as beans, lentils, and peas, have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol level, and high blood pressure.

For those wishing to preserve heart function and health, Wood says they’d benefit from avoiding foods high in sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates.

“It’s especially important to avoid these foods if you have high cholesterol. If you’re contemplating eating a food that is high in sugar, salt, or fat, your best bet is to choose something else,” she said.

Wood adds that optimizing caloric intake and reaching or maintaining a moderate weight and waist measurement into middle age are “the single most important ways to reduce risk for diabetes as well as participating in regular physical activity and avoiding smoking.”

Smoking, obesity effects

According to the study, men who smoked heavily — defined as 15 or more cigarettes per day — and men and women with obesity (defined as BMI 30 or higher) had the lowest chance of disease-free life expectancy at age 50.

“We looked at five lifestyle factors: eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, not drinking in excess, not smoking, and being physically active. They’re all important. But for smokers, the most important thing for them to do, of course, is to stop smoking. For people who are obese, it’s important to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight,” Hu said.

Parrish agrees that not smoking is critically important.

“The one single thing anyone who smokes can do is simply quit and reduce risk of disease and death by double digits, which is seen through this study. The effect appears to be greater the longer an ‘ever-smoker’ remains no longer smoking,” Parrish said.

“In the first 1 to 10 years after quitting, the risk of heart disease and lung cancer drops, and by 15 years, the risk of each is near that of a nonsmoker,” she added.

The bottom line

New research finds there are five lifestyle factors that significantly increase the years you live without experiencing chronic health issues.

Study participants were followed for more than 20 years. Those who followed four or five of the healthy lifestyle choices significantly increased their healthy life span after age 50.

Experts emphasize that the most influential of these are not smoking and maintaining a moderate body weight.

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Why It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team on September 4, 2019

Consistency is the most important thing to build an exercise habit. Getty Images
  • A new study finds that even if you’ve never worked out before, you still have the same ability as a world-class athlete to build muscle.
  • But experts caution that a gym novice may want to start off slowly to avoid injury.
  • Additionally, even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference to your health.

When he was 70, Jim Owen realized his successful but sedentary career on Wall Street was impairing his health. That was when Owen, who turns 79 next month, began exercising.

He chronicled his journey as an older person reclaiming his physical fitness in “Just Move! A New Approach to Fitness After 50.”

Now, a new study in the journal Frontiers in Physiology backs up what Owen witnessed firsthand: Even if you’ve never worked out regularly and are older, your body has the same ability to build muscle mass.

Later-in-life fitness

A team at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom compared the ability of men to build muscle mass. They looked at two groups: People older than 60 who exercised at least twice a week for at least 20 years, and those who didn’t have a consistent workout routine.

Participants had a muscle biopsy 48 hours before consuming an isotope tracer drink and conducting a weight training session, then another biopsy after finishing. The drink enabled the researchers to see how proteins were developing within the muscle.

Both groups had equal abilities to build muscle in response to exercise.

“Our study clearly shows that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t been a regular exerciser throughout your life: You can still derive benefit from exercise whenever you start,” said lead researcher Leigh Breen, PhD, a lecturer at the university.

“Obviously a long-term commitment to good health and exercise is the best approach to achieve whole-body health, but even starting later on in life will help delay age-related frailty and muscle weakness,” he said.

Although they’re already better off fitnesswise, the avid exercisers’ bodies synthesized protein at the same rate as the untrained individuals when it came to the specific resistance training exercise used, says Joe Masiello, a trainer and co-founder of Focus Personal Training Institute in New York City.

“Physiologically, younger subjects have a greater advantage to building muscle than older subjects,” Masiello said.

Regardless of age, progressive overload is essential to avoid plateau. That means you have to apply adequate stimulus (or exercise stress) and variation consistently to continuously build — and not just maintain — muscle.HEALTHLINE CHALLENGECreate a movement routine that you can do at home

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How working out works

Jason Karp, a California-based running coach at Run-Fit and REVO₂LUTION RUNNING, says the participants had results because the body reacts to physical stress at any age.

When stimulus is applied to the body, it makes adaptations to moderate the stress. Actin and myosin are the two major proteins inside muscles that are responsible for muscle contraction. They increase as we work out, building more protein so muscles get stronger.

“The process of building muscle begins the second that you ask your muscles to do something challenging and unfamiliar, whether that’s picking up a dumbbell, performing a pushup, or sprinting on a treadmill,” said Jamie Hickey, a personal trainer from Pennsylvania.

Exercise stress damages muscle cells, or fibers. As the body repairs them, they become bigger than they were before — building muscle.

In short, the experience level of the exerciser doesn’t really matter as long as the resistance or exercise is challenging.

“If the muscle is challenged, it will change,” added Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist and certified sports nutritionist from Connecticut.

“In the beginning weeks of starting a new workout routine, the majority of strength gains aren’t actually a result of this muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy. Rather, they are a result of the body’s neurological system learning when and how to fire the needed muscle cells,” Hickey said.

For example, the first time you do a bench press, your arms aren’t totally in sync, and the weights may sway a bit from side to side. But by the time you perform your second or third set of that same exercise, the practice gets a little smoother, he explains.

“That’s your neurological system at work,” Hickey said.

Starting an exercise regimen

Where should novices begin if they want to start working out regularly?

“Find where you’re starting point is and progress slowly and systematically, adding a little stress at a time over many months,” Karp said.

People new to working out may not be sure what to do to get a good workout, or may try to do too much at first. This is why consulting a doctor, working with a trainer, or both can be so beneficial.

“Many adults just don’t know where to start with strength training or exercise in general,” added Morgan Nolte, PhD, a specialist in geriatric physical therapy from Nebraska.

“They know it’s good for them but are fearful of getting hurt, especially if they have a preexisting condition — which is common in older adults — like high blood pressure, back pain, or a joint replacement,” she said.

Keep in mind differences that happen when someone in their 40s begins working out regularly compared to someone in their 60s or 70s.

A 40-year-old will be able to start at a higher intensity or do more from a cardio perspective because the maximum heart rate decreases with age. A younger person will likely have fewer health issues to work around compared to someone starting out exercising in their 60s or 70s.

That said, anyone can begin working out consistently at any age. We can all benefit from physical activity. Exercises can be modified to suit the individual, making it doable for anyone, Nolte says.

It’s very important to stress the mental benefits of exercise as well, especially for aging adults where depression is common, she adds.

“Keep it simple,” Masiello said. “Many people feel overwhelmed that they don’t know what to do, or don’t have the time, so they don’t do anything at all. They do not have to spend an hour in the gym, do a host of complicated exercises, or purchase complicated fitness trackers.”

Consistency is the most important thing to build an exercise habit, he adds. Once you’re used to incorporating exercise into your day, you can adjust the duration, intensity, and type accordingly.

Holland agrees that starting slowly is key.

“You need not go to the gym or do hourlong sessions, either,” Holland said. “Minutes matter. Studies have shown that three 10-minute bouts of exercise have the same benefits as one continuous 30-minute session.”

“It’s absolutely never too late to start,” Masiello said. “People who begin exercising later in life can’t believe how much better they look and feel. Especially when chronic pains they’ve had for years disappear. Exercise is medicine.”

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Will We Need a COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot Later This Year?

Written by Brian Krans on May 30, 2021 — Fact checked by Michael Crescione

Experts say it’s too early to know if we’ll need booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccines. Jacob Lund/Getty Images
  • The CEOs of some pharmaceutical companies say COVID-19 vaccination booster shots may be needed as early as this fall to bolster immunity against the disease.
  • Experts say it’s too early to tell if and when those booster shots will be needed.
  • Booster shots are not uncommon. They’re used for the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine, among others.

The vaccines being used in the United States and other parts of the world are safe and effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19.

How long that protection lasts is still not fully understood — both the virus and the vaccines against it are relatively new.

Breakthrough infectionsTrusted Source — those occurring in people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 — are happening. So far, though, they are largely occurring without major problems. Most people are asymptomatic, and their cases are discovered only during routine testing.

As variants of the novel coronavirus continue to spread and mutate, researchers are monitoring how the vaccines perform and whether booster shots will be needed to maintain meaningful immunity.

Right now, experts say it’s too early to speculate whether we’ll need booster shots like some routine vaccines.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, says it’s premature to predict whether COVID-19 boosters will be needed and, if so, at what intervals.

“To me, the threshold for boosters would be to see fully vaccinated individuals getting breakthrough infection severe enough to land them in the hospital,” Adalja told Healthline. “We have not crossed that threshold.”

However, the CEO of the companies whose COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed in the United States say their shots may need to be given annually, like a flu shot. They told Axios those boosters could come as early as September.

Data shows Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which both use the same mRNA technology to create immunity against the novel coronavirus, remain effective after 6 months. Still, Pfizer officials in February said they are testing a booster shot up to a year after a person receives their first two doses.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine — which hasn’t received approval to be used in the United States — has been tested with a boosterTrusted Source or a second shot after 12 weeks. Still, it doesn’t appear to offer any more meaningful protection than doses given closer together.

An international team of researchers published a paperTrusted Source in the journal Nature Medicine in January that looked at what was next for COVID-19 vaccinations beyond their phase 3 trials.

“Additional booster doses might be necessary to extend the duration of protection,” they wrote. “We do not know whether primary series and booster doses can or should be different.”

Dr. Anthony FauciTrusted Source, the United States’ leading voice on infectious diseases, told a Senate subcommittee last week that he doesn’t anticipate that the durability of the COVID-19 vaccine protection “is going to be infinite.”

“It’s just not,” he said. “So I would imagine we will need, at some time, a booster.”

When that booster is needed, Fauci said, remains to be seen. Researchers are continuing to see when the current vaccines’ protections begin to fade.

Boosters are common

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends boostersTrusted Source for other common vaccines.

For example, a booster for the vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, or Tdap, is recommended every 10 years. People who travel in countries with high levels of hepatitis A are advised to get a booster shot 12 months after their first doses.

A team of Australian researchers published research in March that used predictive modeling to see how well COVID-19 vaccine protection lasted by examining titer or the concentration of protective antibodies. They found the decay of protection 250 days after immunization predicted a “significant loss” in protection, “although protection from severe disease should be largely retained.”

And that’s the whole point of vaccines: To protect from serious infection that could result in hospitalization or even death.

Dr. Stephen Russell, CEO and co-founder of Imanis Life Sciences — a Rochester, Minnesota, company that makes COVID-19 antibody tests — says it’s possible a fully vaccinated person could remain protected for more than a year. That protection could also drop off as quickly as 3 months.

“The appropriate timing of booster shots is therefore very difficult to determine without specific information about the peak neutralizing antibody titer and its rate of fall in a given individual,” he said.

Russell also says the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to generate the highest neutralizing antibody titers, followed by the AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines. But, he said, different vaccines work differently, and it’s still possible that a vaccine might be developed for COVID-19 that gives lasting immunity.

“The common childhood vaccines such as measles, mumps, and rubella that most of us have had typically result in lifelong immunity,” Russell said, “but they use live replicating viruses, which may persist much longer than mRNA vaccines and are therefore able to drive a better, more lasting immune response.”

For now, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that the current vaccines can’t keep up with the current versions of the novel coronavirus.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our twice weekly wellness email

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What to Know About 1-800 Contacts Express Eye Exam

Written by Catherine Crider on May 28, 2021 — Fact checked by Jennifer Chesak

Picture this: Your contact lenses are running low, and you soon realize that your last prescription has expired. With a busy week ahead, squeezing in a visit to the eye doctor would be a struggle.

That’s when online retailers like 1-800 Contacts can be a great help. They offer convenient, virtual eye exams that you can complete from your own home, enabling you to quickly restock your contacts without leaving the house.

This article reviews who can take a 1-800 Contacts Express Exam, what it’s like, and how it stacks up with in-person exams and other online alternatives.

What’s the 1-800 Contacts Express Exam?

The 1-800 Contacts Express Exam is an online eye exam read by a licensed ophthalmologist in your state. You take it in the comfort of your own home, allowing you to get a valid contact lens prescription renewal in a jiffy.

However, know that it’s not a comprehensive eye exam like one you’d receive by visiting an eye doctor. It’s also only good for contact lens prescriptions, not for glasses.

The exam is designed to take just 10 minutes and you’ll receive your prescription within 24 hours.

How it works

Before taking the test, make sure that you:

  • have your current contact lens prescription handy
  • are wearing your contact lenses
  • have access to a computer or smartphone with a camera and microphone
  • have 10 feet (3 meters) of space available
  • have a credit card or a card of similar size ready, which is used to calibrate your screen

Then, head to the 1-800 Contacts website.

There, you’ll first answer a few questions about your age, location, and prior contact lens experience to ensure that you’re eligible for the online exam.

Then, you’ll be asked to take a few pictures of your eyes. This allows the ophthalmologist to look for any signs of redness or irritation.

Next, you’ll stand 10 feet (3 meters) away from your computer or smartphone while wearing your current contacts. You’ll read aloud a series of letters to help the doctor determine if you can see clearly with your existing prescription.

Finally, you’ll enter the details about the contacts you wore during the exam. Within 24 hours, you’ll be contacted with your renewed prescription or informed if there were any issues.

Who’s eligible?

To take advantage of 1-800 Contacts online eye exam, you need to be a current contact lens wearer.

You must also be between the ages of 18 and 55 and live in a state that approves this type of service. Currently, the service is unavailable in Alaska, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

The process and how to order

Once you have a valid prescription, ordering contacts from 1-800 Contacts is quick and easy.

First, locate your preferred brand from those listed on the website. Then, enter your prescription and upload a picture of it.

If you’ve misplaced your prescription, no need to worry. If it’s from an outside ophthalmologist or optometrist, simply provide their contact information to 1-800 Contacts, who will request your prescription on your behalf.

After placing your order, your contacts will be shipped for free. What’s more, 1-800 Contacts promises to beat any competitor’s price on your lenses.

If you need to return your new contact lenses due to a change in prescription — or for any other reason — you can exchange unopened packets for free, shipping included. Additionally, if you tear a lens, 1-800 Contacts will send a replacement for free.GET STARTED WITH 1-800 CONTACTS

A real experience

If you’re interested in trying out 1-800 Contacts but worry that the service is too good to be true, rest assured that Healthline Senior Editor Megan Severs was more than satisfied when she used the website for an online exam and to purchase lenses in 2020.

She found the process quick and easy and was happy to find that her contacts arrived without much waiting. She even received convenient updates when it was time to order more, helping her make sure she didn’t run out again.

How it compares with in-person and online alternatives

Know that the Express Exam from 1-800 Contacts isn’t a complete eye health exam or a substitute for in-person eye exams.

While the prescription you receive may match what your doctor would prescribe in person, the Express Exam is a renewal service only. The strength testing isn’t as detailed as what you receive when visiting an optometrist or eye doctor in person.

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that the 1-800 Contacts doctors don’t test your eye health during an Express Exam.

While the price and format of the 1-800 Contacts Express Exam are similar to online eye exams offered at other websites like Lens.com, 1-800 Contacts doesn’t update prescriptions for glasses. If you wear glasses, getting both prescriptions at once can be handy, and you may want to explore virtual options that offer both.

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