January 16, 2008

Exercise and HIV

Filed under: By Vadim Vilensky — Administrator @ 2:14 pm

  Vadim Vilensky

Medical studies have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of exercise in patients with HIV. Documented benefits include improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, the ability to perform activities of daily living, muscular strength, lean body mass, mood, and coping behaviors. Decreases in anxiety, fatigue, and depression have also been observed.

There are conflicting reports about the effect of exercise training on immune function. Some clinical trials demonstrated improvement in immunologic function, while others have not shown a change. However, one study published in 1999 in “Annals of Epidemiology” observed delayed disease progression and reduced risk of developing AIDS in a trial group of 156 homosexual men with HIV. More studies are needed to better explain the immunologic response to exercise, but it is safe to say that exercise has no detrimental effect on immune system function.

For people with HIV, it is probably best to start a fitness program with exercise testing. Fatigue and neuromuscular complications are common during the advanced stage of HIV. Fitness tests can provide valuable information for an exercise prescription based on an individual’s exercise tolerance, balance, and coordination levels. Due to HIV related muscle wasting, a body composition analysis may be desirable.

Patients with HIV can benefit from both cardiorespiratory and progressive resistance training programs. Resistance training increases lean body weight, and improves physical appearance. It offers an effective treatment modality that may halt, and potentially reverse, the muscle catabolism due to drug therapy and the later stages of AIDS. A group of scientists in California studied the effects of resistance exercise, combined with testosterone supplementation, in 61 HIV-infected men with low testosterone level and weight loss. A report published in the “Journal of American Medical Association” found that resistance exercise promoted significant increase in muscle mass and strength.

Exercise training represents an important adjunctive therapy for people with HIV. The emphasis should be on proper technique and a consistent training schedule. Different modalities can be utilized, incorporating exercises for strength, balance, control, and coordination. Getting professional help can add motivation, track your progress more effectively, make your workout safer and more fun, and make the whole process more comfortable and convenient. Don’t let setbacks end your fitness program. Medication side effects, acute infections, and fatigue can influence your ability to exercise on any given day. Don’t overreact when something doesn’t work the way you expected. Fitness is a long-term commitment and you have to be prepared to meet some obstacles and to cope with them.

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