By Joy Altimare, Secretary, Iris House Board of Directors
As an avid fitness lover, I’m honored to share what I’ve learn about the overall benefits to maintaining a healthy fitness regimen – for people with or without HIV. Although there isn’t scientific data to support the notion that regular exercise provides medical benefits to those with HIV, I’ve learned, anecdotally and as the Marketing Director of blink fitness, that people with HIV can improve their fitness levels through training like those who do not have HIV.
Due to fatigue, people with HIV may experience that their fitness level may be different than it used to be. It is very important that you work your way into an exercise program to avoid injury. Starting with 10 minute sessions is good enough until you build up to an hour.
Varied exercise routines prevent boredom and are essential to maintaining a regimen. Great tip: find new ways to keep yourself motivated to maintain your exercise program. Find a friend who can become your “exercise buddy.” Other great tips that I’ve discovered throughout my tenure:
1) Eat and Drink Correctly
Drinking enough liquids is very important when you exercise. Extra water can help you replace the fluids you lose. Remember that drinking tea, coffee, colas, chocolate, or alcohol can actually make you lose body liquid.
Don’t eat a big meal before you exercise (snacking is OK). Try to eat during the first hour after the exercise session to replenish your body’s energy storage. Having a small snack like an apple or small peanut butter sandwich on multigrain bread before working out can provide you with a boost in energy.
Proper nutrition is also important. With increased activity, you may need to eat more calories to avoid losing weight, unless weight loss is your goal.
2) Choose Something You Enjoy
Choose activities that you like. Whether it is yoga, running, bicycling, or another sport, doing something you like will encourage you to maintain your program. But, don’t get into a rut! Change your activities if you need to so that you stay motivated.
If your fitness level is good, consider participating in competitive sports. Taking part in competitive or team sports does not pose a risk of spreading HIV to other athletes or coaches. Keeping your HIV viral load undetectable protects you and other around you, and may prevent you from losing lean body mass.
3) Exercise with Weights
Weight training (resistance exercise) is one of the best ways to increase lean body mass and bone density that may be lost through HIV disease and aging. Working out three times a week for an hour should be enough if done well. Doing weight training followed by 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise may be the best way to improve body composition and keep your blood lipids and sugar down.
Cardiovascular exercise means increasing oxygenation and heart rate while moving large muscle groups continuously for at least 30 minutes. Activities such as brisk walking, jogging, dancing, bicycling or swimming can be considered cardiovascular exercise. Walk your dog, park your car far, use the stairs, and get creative about ways not to remain sedentary. Every little bit helps keep the heart flowing.
4) Don’t Overdo It!
A moderate exercise program will improve your body composition and minimize health risks. At first, go slow and schedule exercise into your daily activities.
Work up to a schedule of at least 20 minutes, at least three times per week to the best of your abilities. This can lead to significant improvements in your fitness level and you may feel better. As your strength and energy increase, try to aim at 45 minutes to an hour, three to four times a week.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Exercise can improve lean body mass, decrease fat, stress, fatigue and depression; improve strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. It makes you feel better – mentally and physically – and it something that you can do for yourself.
With summer just around the corner, take advance of the great weather and get started today! But, before you start (if you’re just starting a program), but talk to your doctor to make sure that you are able to exercise safely!
Note: Some components of this blog’s tips provided by Equinox Training Program, 2013.