People diagnosed with HIV/AIDS can live long, healthy lives if they get medical care and exercise regularly.
Exercising is important, whether you are HIV positive or HIV negative because regular exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle.
However, different types of exercise are appropriate depending on where an individual is in their HIV treatment progression. Exercise can play a role in controlling some of the long-term side effects, such as altered body composition and elevated cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose.
- Maintains or builds muscle mass and decreases fat, helping to maintain a healthy body weight.
- Reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels (less risk of heart disease).
- Increases energy.
- Regulates bowel function.
- Strengthens bones (less risk of osteoporosis).
- Improves blood circulation.
- Increases lung capacity.
- Helps with sound, restful sleep.
- Lowers stress and can improve depression.
- Improves appetite.
- Reduces the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and some kinds of cancer.
Moderate exercise improves cardiovascular and nervous system function in individuals living with HIV. Studies have shown that moderate exercise for 10 weeks, 3 times a week for 45 minutes each session, significantly improves the nervous system and circulation in those individuals living with HIV.
Before starting any exercise program, consult with your healthcare provider to see if he or she wants to set any limitations on your activities. When you are really not feeling good you should not exercise, but you need to figure out what is just general malaise (either generally feeling unwell physically or emotionally) and what is more serious fatigue or illness.
The general rule of thumb is that if you are feverish, dizzy, have swollen joints, pain in your feet or hands, vomiting, diarrhoea, open sores, bleeding gums, or blood in the urine or stool, do not exercise. Listen to your body. If you get overly tired in the middle of a workout, it is time to stop. Be flexible and be patient with your body and your workout.
Fitness is divided into several different components, all of which are important to a person with HIV. These components are resistance training, cardiovascular training, flexibility training, balance training, and mind-body training. Asymptomatic Individuals with HIV (CD4 count over 500 cells/mL) – You might start working out two or three times per week for 20 to 30 minutes at the easy level. Over the next several weeks, consider increasing the time up to 30 minutes, but probably not over 60 minutes per session. Do this for up to five times per week, working mostly in the moderate range but every so often going into the difficult range (not staying there for long).
Symptomatic Individuals with HIV (CD4 count ranging from 200-500 cells/mL) – You might start off working out up to three times per week in the easy range, for 15 to 20 minutes or as tolerated. Some days you may be able to go longer and other days you may not. As you get stronger, you may be able to gradually move up into the moderate range for as long as 40 minutes per session, up to four times per week.
Monitor yourself and do not over-train. If you are overly fatigued or exhausted, take a couple of days off to recover. Then start exercising again at a slightly lower intensity. Individuals living with AIDS (CD4 will want to begin very gently. You might workout up to 15 to 20 minutes, up to three times per week as tolerated.
You should progress cautiously over the next several weeks up into the moderate range for 20 to 30 minutes three times per week at the most. The rule of thumb here is to do what you can do, but do not overdo it. Be aware of your fatigue and exhaustion level and stop before you reach critical.