9 Fitness Tips for People With HIV

  • two-men-jogging
    Staying Active With HIV
    If you’ve been diagnosed with HIV, you might struggle to understand how you can achieve your best physical health while living with your disease. Part of living well with HIV includes getting regular exercise, which has been shown to increase health and functionality in many HIV patients. If you’re ready to begin an exercise program after being diagnosed with HIV, keep these tips in mind while you work toward a healthier physical state.

  • Man with doctor
    1. Talk to your doctor.
    Before you start any exercise program, it’s important you talk to your doctor about your HIV status and your current physical health because they can influence the type of exercise you should do. Also, your doctor has developed a treatment plan for dealing with your HIV, and you should check to be sure regular exercise is a healthy addition to that plan.

  • man-exercising-and-checking-wrist-watch
    2. Plan your time.
    Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Even though you have HIV, you can still see substantial benefits from regularly scheduled exercise, including lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It’s a good idea to spread out the time you spend exercising throughout the week. If you can’t commit to 150 minutes each week initially, try exercising for 30 minutes three times a week. The most important thing is consistency.

  • man-stretching-at-wall-before-run
    3. Start slow and listen to your body.
    If you’re just starting your exercise program, try to slowly build up the fitness foundation you have. Begin your exercise habit by being mindful of how your body feels now, before you start any exercise routine. You should increase the amount of time spent exercising and the intensity of your exercise gradually to avoid injury or other problems. It’s important to listen to your body and recognize if you’re pushing yourself too fast, too soon.

  • Woman in Warrior Yoga Pose
    4. Choose an exercise you enjoy.
    It’s going to be much easier to stick with an exercise program if you actually enjoy it! If you hate running, try biking or walking; if you don’t want to lift free weights in the gym, you can try yoga classes instead. Also, if you find yourself getting into an exercise rut, try switching up the type of exercise you’re doing. Variations in your activities can keep you interested and willing to make the time to work out.

  • man-stretching-on-road
    5. Be sure to warm up.
    You’ve heard this before, but it’s still important: always spend some time warming up before you begin a higher-intensity workout. This doesn’t mean you have to spend 30 minutes simply preparing to exercise; your warm-up can be something as simple as a few stretches. A short warm-up allows your heart rate and breathing to gradually increase, since it’s performed at a slower speed and lower intensity than the rest of your workout.

  • smiling-man-lifting-weights
    6. Try both types of exercise.
    There are two broad categories of exercise: aerobic exercise and strength training. To maximize the health benefits to your body, try to incorporate both types of exercise into your weekly workout routine. Aerobic training focuses on strengthening your heart and lungs, while strength training helps to build muscle mass. Strength training is particularly important for people living with HIV, since it can help offset any loss of muscle you might experience as a result of the disease.

  • glasses-of-water
    7. Eat and drink well.
    Both aerobic exercise and strength training involve the tearing down of your existing muscle; then it’s replaced with new, stronger muscle tissue. Be sure to consume a healthy diet to get the nutrition you need to rebuild your muscles and keep you at a healthy weight. Also, drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercising to avoid dehydration. If you feel thirsty, you’ve probably already lost important fluids and electrolytes.

  • peaceful-woman-sleeping-in-bed
    8. Sleep on it.
    After you exercise, your body needs time to rebuild muscle mass that was lost in the process. Muscle repair and rebuilding occurs while you’re sleeping, so it’s important to get a good night’s rest as often as possible. You might find that exercising improves the quality of your sleep, allowing you to sleep longer and in a deeper sleep state. Better sleep might also help put you in a more positive frame of mind.

  • man-relaxing-on-couch
    9. Take a break if you need to.
    It’s okay to take a break from exercising if you get sick, like when you get a cold, or if your HIV status changes and your doctor determines it’s not safe for you to exercise. There’s no shame in allowing your body to heal while you’re sick, and your body will thank you for giving it a rest. Once your doctor clears you, resume your exercise routine slowly and carefully to avoid overexertion or injury.

Fitness for HIV | 9 Fitness Tips for People With HIV
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About The Author

Sarah Handzel began writing professionally in 2016. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and worked as a registered nurse in multiple specialties, including pharmaceuticals, operating room/surgery, endocrinology, and family practice. With over nine years of clinical practice experience, Sarah has worked with clients including Healthgrades, Mayo Clinic, Aha Media Group, Wolters Kluwer, and UVA Cancer Center.
  1. Clinical Implications of Therapeutic Exercise in HIV/AIDS. Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. http://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1068&context=utk_nurspubs
  2. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf
  3. Exercise and HIV: Entire Lesson. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.hiv.va.gov/patient/daily/exercise/single-page.asp
  4. Fact Sheet 802, Exercise and HIV. International Association of Providers of AIDS Care. http://www.aidsinfonet.org/fact_sheets/view/802
  5. Get up and get moving! U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/staying-healthy-with-hiv-aids/taking-care-of-yourself/exercise/
  6. How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
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Last Review Date: 2019 Feb 21
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