A GP from Caversham has launched a campaign encouraging people to exercise in order to boost their immune system during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Dr William Bird, CEO of Intelligent Health, the firm behind the popular Beat the Street physical activity game has launched Beat the Bug.

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The aim of the campaign is to help people to do what they can to combat Covid-19 and to reduce pressure on the NHS by staying active, connecting with individuals and communities, reducing stress and boosting immunity.  

Dr Bird, who is an adviser on physical activity to the World Health Organisation and the UK government, is also a doctor working on the NHS frontline against the coronavirus at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

He said: “My team and I are asking you to do one thing to help yourselves, help Britain and to protect the NHS, and that is to ensure you and your family get up and get active at least twice a day.

“Moving in short bursts is enough to boost your body’s production of Natural Killer Cells.

“These wonderful little cells work as your body’s natural defence system, killing viruses as they try to enter your body.

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“In order to do their job effectively though, they need to be woken up regularly with a burst of exercise – that’s why we recommend at least two activity sessions per day.”

The campaign will see Dr Bird delivering Facebook Live sessions offering advice, answering questions and sharing tips on how to get the most out of your exercise.

Dr Bird described working in the hospital during the coronavirus pandemic as “a bit unreal”.

He said his father was a GP and spoke of the “really bad times” during epidemics over the years.

Dr Bird said: “He used to say we could hardly cope and now I’m seeing the same and probably a lot worse than he did.”

Dr Bird added when diseases such as SARS and bird flu appeared “they disappeared again because they got shut down”.

He explained: “I think when it was in Wuhan in China almost everybody, even the real experts, felt ‘yes it’s the same, it’s going to be really worrying, very bad but we’ll shut it down’ and we didn’t.”

When the pandemic is over, Dr Bird hopes people will “have a bit more of a meaningful life” with people continuing to do things they value such as spending time with family and not rushing around.

He believes “that could be quite exciting”.