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Exercise
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Overview
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Benefits of exercise
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Before starting
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Types of exercise
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Resistance training
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Aerobic exercise
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Target heart rate
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Designing a program
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Cautions
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Resources
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Overview

Being HIV positive is no different from being HIV negative when it comes to exercise. Regular exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle.

People diagnosed with HIV infection can live long, healthy lives, if they get medical care and take care of their bodies. This includes getting regular exercise.

Benefits of exercise

Exercise can have many benefits, including the following:

transparent gifgrey bulletMaintains or builds muscle mass and decreases fat, helping to maintain a healthy body weight
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transparent gifgrey bulletReduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels (less risk of heart disease)
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transparent gifgrey bulletIncreases energy
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transparent gifgrey bulletRegulates bowel function
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transparent gifgrey bulletStrengthens bones (less risk of osteoporosis)
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transparent gifgrey bulletImproves blood circulation
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transparent gifgrey bulletIncreases lung capacity
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transparent gifgrey bulletHelps with sound, restful sleep
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transparent gifgrey bulletLowers stress and can improve depression
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transparent gifgrey bulletImproves appetite
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transparent gifgrey bulletReduces the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and some kinds of cancer
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Before starting

Before starting an exercise program, talk to your doctor about what you have done in the past for exercise; mention any problems that you had previously and any difficulty you have now when exerting yourself (in particular, chest pain/pressure). Consider your current health status and other medical conditions that may affect the type of exercise you can do.

Make sure you can set aside time for your exercise program. The U.S. Surgeon General's report on exercise suggests 30-45 minutes a day of brisk walking, bicycling, or working around the house. This amount of exercise can reduce risks of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes.

If this amount of time seems too much, consider starting with 3 times a week. The important thing is consistency. This is an ongoing program and you will not benefit without consistency.

Types of exercise

Two types of exercise are resistance training and aerobic exercise. Resistance training--sometimes called strength training--helps to build muscle mass. Aerobic exercise is exercise that leads to an elevated heart rate and increases the body�s use of oxygen. This kind of exercise strengthens your lungs and your heart. You can read more about these on the next couple of pages.

Resistance training

Resistance or strength training is important for people with HIV because it can help offset the loss of muscle sometimes caused by the disease. This form of exercise involves exertion of force by moving (pushing or pulling) objects of weight. They can be barbells, dumbbells, or machines in gyms. You can also use safe, common household objects such as plastic milk containers filled with water or sand, or you can use your own body weight in exercises such as pushups or pullups. The purpose of resistance training is to build muscle mass.

Use the correct amount of weight for the exercise you are performing. You should not feel pain during the exercise. When starting a resistance training program, you may feel a little sore for a day or two, but not enough to limit your regular activities. If you do feel very sore, you have used too much weight or have done too many repetitions. Rest an extra day and start again using less weight.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise strengthens your lungs and heart, builds muscle, and burns fat. Walking, jogging, running, swimming, hiking, and cycling are forms of this exercise.

This movement increases the rate and depth of your breathing, which in turn increases how much blood and oxygen your heart pumps to your muscles. To achieve the maximum benefit of this kind of exercise, your heart rate should reach the target rate (see below) for at least 20 minutes. It may take you weeks to reach this level if you haven't been exercising much.

Target heart rate

Your target heart rate is the rate (the number of times your heart beats per minute) at which you receive the maximum benefit from exercise. At your target heart rate, you're working hard but not too hard. To find your target heart rate, you have to measure your pulse at different times while you exercise. The table below gives target heart rates for various ages. If you're just starting out, aim for the lower end of your range. To measure your heart rate while you're exercising, find your pulse (usually easiest to find at your wrist near the base of your thumb, or on the side of your neck), and count how many times you feel your pulse beat in a minute. You can also count how many times you feel your pulse beat in 10 seconds, and then multiply this number by 6.

AgeTarget Heart Rate Zone 50-75%
20 years100-150 beats per minute
25 years98-146 beats per minute
30 years95-142 beats per minute
35 years93-138 beats per minute
40 years90-135 beats per minute
45 years88-131 beats per minute
50 years85-127 beats per minute
55 years83-123 beats per minute
60 years80-120 beats per minute
65 years78-116 beats per minute
70 years75-113 beats per minute
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If you don't want to take your pulse while you are exercising, here are some other ways to tell if your workout is too hard or too easy:

transparent gifgrey bulletIf you can talk while you exercise, you are not working too hard.
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transparent gifgrey bulletIf you can sing while you exercise, you are not working hard enough.
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transparent gifgrey bulletIf you get out of breath quickly, you are working too hard.
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Remember, if you are walking, jogging, or running outdoors, make sure you save enough energy for the return trip. Don't overdo it.

Designing a program

When beginning an exercise program, start slow and build. Start any exercise session with a warmup. This can be as short as a few stretches if you are working out later in the day when your muscles and joints are already loose or a short 10-minute stretch session if you are working out first thing in the morning when your muscles and joints are still tight. Your warmup should not tire you out but invigorate you and decrease the risk of joint or muscle injury.

If you join a gym, ask about what comes with the membership. Many gyms offer a free evaluation, weighing and measuring you and asking about your goals. Some gym memberships come with a free workout with a personal trainer and program to help you achieve your goals.

Finding a workout partner can be helpful for support and encouragement, and your workout partner can help with the last repetition of an exercise, which can help improve your strength.

A balanced exercise program is best. Starting with an aerobic exercise is a good warmup to a resistance training session. Remember that learning the correct form in a weight training program will lessen the chance of injury. Go at your own pace. You are not competing with anyone. Listen to your body. If it hurts, stop.

Cautions

After an exercise session, you should feel a little tired. A little while later, however, you should have some energy.

Water: Drink it before, during, and after you exercise. When you feel thirsty you have already lost important fluids and electrolytes and may be dehydrated.

Eat well: Exercising tears down muscle in order to build it up stronger. You need nutrition to provide the raw materials to rebuild your muscles.

Sleep: While you sleep, your body is rebuilding.

Listen to your body: It will tell you to slow down or speed up.

If you are sick or have a cold, take a break. Your body will thank you.

Resources

transparent gifgrey bulletFact sheet on nutrition and exercise when you have HIV
Includes tips on exercises for strength training, from the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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transparent gifgrey bulletThe Body's Exercise and HIV page
Includes a listing of Web links to advice, news and research, and personal accounts related to exercise and HIV.
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transparent gifgrey bulletPhysical activity information
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Includes recommendations and guidelines for incorporating physical activity into your daily life.
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transparent gifgrey bulletFitness Fundamentals: Guidelines for Personal Exercise Programs
From The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Features instructions on how to create a personal exercise program that includes all the basic components of physical fitness.
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