Exercise and HIV

Exercise and HIV

Moderate exercise is beneficial

There's no doubt those living with HIV have been told by numerous medical professionals that exercise is hugely beneficial, but how many people know what they should actually be doing? No two people with HIV are the same although there are some suggestions which remain constant to all:

  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Take regular exercise.

Moderate exercise is beneficial to the immune system, and can also play a role in controlling some of your long-term side effects such as altered body composition and elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose. Before starting any exercise program you should consult your doctor to see if he or she wants to set any limitations on your activities.

Strength training with HIV

Strength training is probably the most important part of fitness for the person living with HIV as it helps you add muscle mass which is important because of the role muscle plays in your body's immune system. Muscle wasting is a big problem with HIV, as the muscles waste they lose their function. If you have experienced, or are currently experiencing, muscle wasting, then resistance training can help slow down or reverse this wasting. Your goal with resistance training is to increase the size of the muscles all over your body, not to increase endurance or strength.


When including cardio training, such as brisk walking, cycling, jogging or swimming, into your workout it is extremely important to avoid over-training. Cardio training improves overall health by helping to control blood pressure, blood sugar levels, blood lipids, and stress, but over-training can have negative effects on the person with HIV, such as the loss of lean body mass (muscle) and suppression of immune responses. Aerobic exercise should be strenuous enough to make you out of breath but still able to talk.

Initially those of you with asymptomatic HIV should try to do your cardio exercise 2-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes, begin at a pace you can manage and increase gradually, ensuring that if it gets too much you stop. For those living with symptomatic HIV or AIDS, 2-3 times a week if you can manage it, starting at a very gentle pace for no more than 10-20 minutes to begin with, progressing with caution over the next few weeks.


Stretching is still one of the most overlooked and underrated elements of training but remains an important component of any workout. The type, intensity, and duration of a flexibility workout will also depend on your condition. There are a number of movement-based exercises, such as yoga, which help maintain muscle tone and suppleness whilst also having meditative or relaxing qualities.

There are many ways to commit yourself to a workout. Some people get a workout partner, others make the financial commitment of hiring a trainer as it is easier to stay motivated and consistent with a partner or trainer. Consistency is the key to success with any workout.

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