Gym Workout with HIV Fitness Expert Nelson Vergel
Exercising With HIV
An HIV diagnosis is no reason to give up on your exercise routine. In fact, you should consider building moderate exercise, like biking or hiking, into your HIV treatment plan, because exercising moderately at least three times a week may slow the progression of HIV to AIDS.
Data suggests that the more physically active you are, the better you'll be able to keep your viral load (the measure of active virus in your body) under control. In addition, staying in shape helps many people cope with HIV-related health issues, such as depression, nerve pain, and diabetes.
Any exercise you enjoy can be included in your routine, whether it's swimming, yoga, running, skiing, or hiking. Of course, if your symptoms flare up and you have open sores or are experiencing vomiting, dizziness, or extreme pain, you may need to skip your planned exercise.
Starting an Exercise Plan With HIV
If you have not been physically active before, start slowly, and consult with your doctor about how to begin. Here are some general guidelines on how to exercise safely and effectively:
- Include both aerobic exercise (brisk physical activity that increases your heart rate) and strength training in your routine.
- Remember to warm up and cool down with stretching exercises.
- Avoid extreme or vigorous exercise, which may negatively affect your immunity.
- Build your endurance by slowly increasing the amount of exercise you do until you're able to work out for about 40 minutes four times a week.
- If you are new to physical activity, focus on aerobic activity for about six weeks before beginning strength training.
- Exercise as you are able — if you aren’t up for a run around the park, consider a water activity or a chair-based program.
Remember, even though you have HIV, you still have a body much like everyone else’s — your heart, lungs, muscles, and bones can benefit from exercise just as they do in a person without HIV.
Here are some good reasons to include physical activity in your HIV treatment plan:
- Exercise reduces stress.Stress weakens your body’s immune system, possibly allowing the HIV virus to become stronger. Including moderate exercise in your HIV treatment plan may not only protect your immune system — it has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, fatigue, and stress as well.
- Exercise fights insulin resistance and high blood sugar.People with HIV who are being treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) often experience insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels as a side effect of the treatment. Other HIV drugs such as protease inhibitors have also contributed to the development of diabetes in some patients. People living with HIV can include physical activity in their daily lives to prevent obesity and the changes in blood sugar that signal diabetes.
- Exercise helps your heart.As with changes in blood sugar, HIV medications put patients at increased risk for heart disease. Exercise can help reduce this risk.
- Exercise is linked to a positive attitude.A recent study of 221 adults with HIV showed a link between being physically active — either moderate activity, such as walking, or more vigorous activity, such as jogging — and the ability to see the brighter side of life.
- Exercise protects bone health.When HIV progresses to AIDS, patients are also at increased risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones lose density and are easily fractured or broken. Moderate exercise, beginning the day you are diagnosed with HIV, may help protect your bones; weight-bearing exercise (exercises done standing up) are particularly helpful for strengthening muscles and bones.
- Exercise counters HIV/AIDS “wasting” syndrome.In the early 1990s, many patients who were being treated for AIDS died of a complication of the disease known as “wasting syndrome,” a condition in which the body rapidly loses muscle mass and fat. HIV medications have improved over the years, making wasting syndrome less common, but exercise has also been shown to help counter the abnormal action of proteins that lead to this syndrome, helping you to maintain muscle mass over time.
Talk to your doctor about adding exercise to your treatment program to help maintain your health and feel better all around. With the guidance of your doctor or a knowledgeable athletic trainer, you should be up and moving in no time.
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