Exercise Enhances Lives of HIV-Positive Patients
WebMD News Archive
In his paper, Stringer cites some evidence that exercise increases CD4
counts. Says Avendano, "From my research and the material I've read, people
who start treatment on time and do exercise will maintain 50 CD4s higher than
people who don't exercise. That's very significant. It represents an important
adjuvant to therapy." CD4 is a kind of white blood cell targeted by HIV.
The higher the CD4 count in the blood, the better patients are able to resist
Patients must be careful about physical limitations, especially with new
medications that cause high triglycerides and cholesterol levels. If they have
a hereditary condition -- such as heart disease -- they need to start very
slowly, Avendano advises.
Andrew Zopola, MD, director of Stanford University's Positive Care program,
tells WebMD, "We recommend that our patients work with a personal trainer
as part of their comprehensive care. We also advise that they talk with their
health care provider first before beginning an exercise program."
Exercise appears to lessen some side effects of HIV medications, says
Zopola. "Patients who are vigorous exercisers seem to have less problem
with the body changes -- what we call peripheral lipodystrophy -- the
redistribution of fat that can make patients look sick even when they are not
sick," he says. "It also helps with cholesterol problems. It does
appear to help control some of the metabolic sequences of [HIV] therapy. We
don't have good studies on this, but it's a strong anecdotal experience for
"The main benefit is that people feel better, they feel healthier,
they're more energetic," says Zopola. "It's good for their sense of
well being, but specifically with the HIV treatments it does seem to lessen
those side effects."
- Moderate aerobic exercise can be beneficial to HIV-positive patients
because it enhances mood and quality of life, helps maintain lean body mass
when wasting is a problem, and can lessen some side effects of HIV
- There is also evidence that exercise can help improve immunity, as patients
who exercise maintain a CD4 count that is significantly higher than that of
patients who do not.
- Patients should be aware of their physical limitations, especially high
triglyceride and cholesterol levels that can be caused by some of the new