The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource
Follow Us Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Download Our App 
Professionals >> Visit The Body PROThe Body en Espanol
Ask the Experts About

Nutrition and ExerciseNutrition and Exercise
Rollover images to visit our other forums!
  • Email Email
  • Glossary Glossary

Exercise and HIV
Jul 28, 2008

Nelson, is there any documented research that shows that regular exercise keeps the onset of AIDS in check for longtime survivors of HIV who strictly adhere to their medication regiment. I am 55 y/o, have been positive for 17 years, and in the best physical shape of my entire life. I do weight training for an hour 3x a week, spinning class for an hour 3x a week, and walk 4 miles every other day. I'm a little achy sometimes, but look terrific, except mild lipoatrophy in my face, however my legs, butt and arms have suffered from lipo as well but my exercise camouflages those areas perfectly except for the veinies, which is my only sign of some health issue. So I was just wondering about the advantage of a regular workout for longtime survivors. Thank you so much for the work that you do.

Response from Mr. Vergel

Like you, I am also a 25-year survivor who started working out right when I was told I was poz. I was told "Go home, eat well, pray, put your "things" in order and take care of yourself" in 1986 when I got my test results after recently arriving to the United States. Luckily, I have gained 60 pounds of muscle after wasting down to 140 Lbs. Weight training with light cardiovascular exercise has kept me going and mentally ready for the challenges that most of us used to experience with our disease and with burying loved ones for many years. I am 100% sure that exercise, testosterone, nandrolone, and a positive attitude brought me time to be here for the introduction of HAART in 1996.

As you know, the loss of lean body mass has been linked to death in HIV and other diseases that cause wasting syndrome. However, no one has done a long-term study to see if those of us with more lean body mass (LBM) are living longer than those with lower LBM. It will be difficult to do a study of this nature now that we are living so long and in an environment with little funding for non-pharmaceutical studies. However, there have been a number of smaller studies that have shown many benefits of exercise in HIV positive men and women: lower visceral fat, more strength, better mood, lower lipids, better immune parameters, coping, etc

I did a search on the main studies and I am posting them here with a brief summary of their findings. You can get more information on each by goggling the paper title.

We should have exercise programs around the United States and the world designed for people with HIV. Many do not have money or access to exercise facilities, and exercise adherence is extremely low. Fortunately, we created a great program in Houston in 1998 that is now operated by the Legacy Clinic in Houston where people get 12 weeks of supervised exercise with trainers, visits to a dietitian, body composition analysis, and free supplements (Omega 3, Niacin, etc). Anyone who is interested in setting up a pilot program like this one should email me at

These are some of the studies. Some are very small but important.

Association between Exercise and HIV Disease Progression in a Cohort of Homosexual Men . Annals of Epidemiology , Volume 9 , Issue 2 , Pages 127 - 131 T . Mustafa

Having exercised was associated with slower progression to AIDS at 1 year (); hazard ratios (HR) at 2, 3, and 4 years were 0.96, 1.18, and 1.36, respectively. Having exercised was also associated with slower progression to death with AIDS at 1 year (HR = 0.37, 90% CI: 0.140.94) with hazard ratios at 2, 3, and 4 years of 0.68, 0.98, and 1.27, respectively, suggesting a protective effect close to the time exercise was assessed, but an increased risk after 2 years. Exercising 34 times/week had a more protective effect than daily exercise. Exercisers in the HIV positive group showed an increase in CD4 count during a year by a factor of 1.07.

Testosterone Replacement and Resistance Exercise in HIV-Infected Men With Weight Loss and Low Testosterone Levels Shalender Bhasin, MD; Thomas W. Storer, PhD; Marjan Javanbakht, MPH; Nancy Berman, PhD; Kevin E. Yarasheski, PhD; Jeffrey Phillips, MD; Marjorie Dike, PhD; Indrani Sinha-Hikim, PhD; Ruoquing Shen, MD; Ron D. Hays, PhD; Gildon Beall, MD JAMA. 2000;283:763-770.

Our data suggest that testosterone and resistance exercise promote gains in body weight, muscle mass, muscle strength, and lean body mass in HIV-infected men with weight loss and low testosterone levels. Testosterone and exercise together did not produce greater gains than either intervention alone.

A pilot study of exercise training to reduce trunk fat in adults with HIV-associated fat redistribution.

AIDS. 13(11):1373-1375, July 30, 1999. Roubenoff, Ronenn abc; Weiss, Lauren c; McDermott, Ann c; Heflin, Tanya ac; Cloutier, Gregory J. d; Wood, Michael ac; Gorbach, Sherwood ab

Exercise training may reduce trunk fat mass in HIV-positive men with fat redistribution.

Resistance Exercise and Supraphysiologic Androgen Therapy in Eugonadal Men With HIV-Related Weight Loss -A Randomized Controlled Trial Alison Strawford, PhD; Theresa Barbieri; Marta Van Loan, PhD; Elizabeth Parks, PhD; Don Catlin, MD; Norman Barton, MD, PhD; Richard Neese, PhD; Mark Christiansen, MD; Janet King, RD, PhD; Marc K. Hellerstein, MD, PhD JAMA. 1999;281:1282-1290.

A moderately supraphysiologic androgen regimen that included an anabolic steroid, oxandrolone, substantially increased the lean tissue accrual and strength gains from PRE, compared with physiologic testosterone replacement alone, in eugonadal men with HIV-associated weight loss. Protease inhibitors did not prevent lean tissue anabolism.

Supervised exercise training improves cardiopulmonary fitness in HIV-infected persons. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 25(6):684-688, June 1993. MACARTHUR, RODGER D.; LEVINE, SHELDON D.; BIRK, THOMAS J.

We attempted to measure cardiopulmonary effects, CD4 counts, and perceived sense of well-being in 25 individuals moderately to severely immunocompromised from HIV infection (mean entry CD4 count = 144-[mu]l-1) before and after a 24-wk program of exercise training. Only six subjects completed the 24-wk program. All six showed evidence of a training effect. Statistically significant improvements were seen in maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), oxygen pulse, and minute ventilation. Submaximal exercise performance improved significantly by 12 wk in the 10 individuals available for testing: decreases were seen in heart rate, rate pressure product, and rate of perceived exertion. White blood cell counts and T-lymphocyte subsets were stable at 12 and 24 wk in the subjects available for testing. High depression/anxiety scores on a mental health inventory (General Health Questionnaire) correlated with low CD4 counts. Scores did not correlate with compliance with the exercise program. There was a trend (P < 0.10) for scores to improve over time among those individuals who attended >=80% of scheduled exercise sessions. We conclude that exercise training is feasible and beneficial for some HIV-infected individuals.

Aerobic exercise: effects on parameters related to fatigue, dyspnea, weight and body composition in HIV-infected adults. AIDS. 15(6):693-701, April 13, 2001. Smith, Barbara A. a; Neidig, Judith L. b,d; Nickel, Jennie T. e; Mitchell, Gladys L. c; Para, Michael F. b; Fass, Robert J. b

We conclude that supervised aerobic exercise training safely decreases fatigue, weight, BMI, subcutaneous fat and abdominal girth (central fat) in HIV-1-infected individuals. It did not appear to have an effect on dyspnea.

Exercise intervention attenuates emotional distress and natural killer cell decrements following notification of positive serologic status for HIV-1 Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback

Volume 15, Number 3 / September, 1990 Arthur R. LaPerriere, Michael H. Antoni, Neil Schneiderman, Gail Ironson, Nancy Klimas, Panagiota Caralis and Mary Ann Fletcher

Abstract : The impact of aerobic exercise training as a buffer of the affective distress and immune decrements which accompany the notification of HIV-1 antibody status in an AIDS risk group was studied. Fifty asymptomatic gay males with a pretraining fitness level of average or below (determined by predicted VO2 max) were randomly assigned to either an aerobic exercise training program or a no-contact control condition. After five weeks of training, at a point 72 hours before serostatus notification, psychometric, fitness and immunologic data were collected on all subjects. Psychometric and immunologic measures were again collected one-week postnotification. Seropositive controls showed significant increases in anxiety and depression, as well as decrements in natural killer cell number following notification whereas, seropositive exercisers showed no similar changes and in fact, resembled both seronegative groups. These findings suggest that concurrent changes in some affective and immunologic measures in response to an acute stressor might be attenuated by an experimentally manipulated aerobic exercise training intervention.

J Appl Physiol 90: 133-138, 2001; Vol. 90, Issue 1, 133-138, January 2001 Resistance exercise training reduces hypertriglyceridemia in HIV-infected men treated with antiviral therapy Kevin E. Yarasheski1, Pablo Tebas2, Barbara Stanerson1, Sherry Claxton1, Donna Marin2, Kyongtae Bae3, Michael Kennedy2, Woraphot Tantisiriwat2, and William G. Powderly2

Hypertriglyceridemia, peripheral insulin resistance, and trunk adiposity are metabolic complications recently recognized in people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). These complications may respond favorably to exercise training. Using a paired design, we determined whether 16 wk of weight-lifting exercise increased muscle mass and strength and decreased fasting serum triglycerides and adipose tissue mass in 18 HIV-infected men. The resistance exercise regimen consisted of three upper and four lower body exercises done for 1-1.5 h/day, 4 days/wk for 64 sessions. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry indicated that exercise training increased whole body lean mass 1.4 kg (P = 0.005) but did not reduce adipose tissue mass (P = NS). Axial proton-magnetic resonance imaging indicated that thigh muscle cross-sectional area increased 5-7 cm2 (P < 0.005). Muscle strength increased 23-38% (P < 0.0001) on all exercises. Fasting serum triglycerides were decreased at the end of training (281-204 mg/dl; P = 0.02). These findings imply that resistance exercise training-induced muscle hypertrophy may promote triglyceride clearance from the circulation of hypertriglyceridemic HIV-infected men treated with antiviral therapy.

Effects of exercise training and metformin on body composition and cardiovascular indices in HIV-infected patients. AIDS. 18(3):465-473, February 20, 2004. Driscoll, Susan D ; Meininger, Gary E ; Lareau, Mark T ; Dolan, Sara E ; Killilea, Kathleen M ; Hadigan, Colleen M ; Lloyd-Jones, Donald M c; Klibanski, Anne ; Frontera, Walter R ; Grinspoon, Steven K

Exercise training in combination with metformin significantly improves cardiovascular and biochemical parameters more than metformin alone in HIV-infected patients with fat redistribution and hyperinsulinemia. Combined treatment was safe, well tolerated and may be a useful strategy to decrease cardiovascular risk in this population.

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 1994 Nov;7(11):1122-33. The effect of acute exercise on lymphocyte subsets, natural killer cells, proliferative responses, and cytokines in HIV-seropositive persons. Ullum H, Palm J, Halkjaer-Kristensen J, Diamant M, Klokker M, Kruuse A, LaPerriere A, Pedersen BK. Copenhagen Muscle Research Center, Department of Infectious Diseases, Rigshospitalet, Denmark.

Eight healthy men infected with human immunodeficiency virus, type 1 (HIV) and eight HIV seronegative age- and sex-matched controls exercised on a bicycle ergometer (75% of VO2max, 1 h). The percentages of CD4+, CD4+45RA+, and CD4+45RO+ cells did not change, whereas the absolute number of CD4+ cells increased twofold during exercise and fell below prevalues 2 h after. The neutrophil count increase was more pronounced after exercise in the controls compared with in HIV-seropositive subjects. The percent CD16+ cells, and the natural killer (NK) and lymphokine activated killer (LAK) cell activity increased during exercise, but this increase was significantly less pronounced in the HIV-seropositive group. The results suggest that in response to physical stress, HIV-seropositive subjects have an impaired ability to mobilize neutrophils, NK and LAK cells to the blood. Furthermore, because the total number of CD4+ cells, but not the percentage of CD4+ cells, changed in response to exercise, this study further strengthens the idea that the percentage of CD4+ cells is preferable to the number of CD4+ cells in monitoring patients seropositive for HIV.

Cardiopulmonary and CD4 cell changes in response to exercise training in early symptomatic HIV infection. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 31, No. 7, pp. 973-979, 1999.

Approximately 61% of exercise-assigned participants complied (> 50% attendance) with the exercise program, and analyses of exercise relapse data indicated that obesity and smoking status, but not exercise-associated illness, differentiated compliant from noncompliant exercisers. Compliant exercisers significantly improved peak oxygen consumption ( O2peak; 12%), oxygen pulse (O2pulse; 13%), tidal volume (TV; 8%), ventilation ( E; 17%), and leg power (25%) to a greater degree than control participants and noncompliant exercisers (all P < 0.05). Although no group differences in health status were found, a significant interaction effect indicated that noncompliant exercisers' CD4 cells declined (18%) significantly, whereas compliant exercisers' cell counts significantly increased (13%; P < 0.05).

Moderate and high intensity exercise training in HIV-1 seropositive individuals: a randomized trial. Int J Sports Med. 1999 Feb;20(2):142-6. Terry L, Sprinz E, Ribeiro JP.

HIV-infected individuals are frequently active, but guidelines for exercise in this population lack scientific support, since studies on the effects of exercise training on immunologic variables of HIV-1 positive individuals have shown conflicting results. Exercise capacity, immunologic markers (CD4, CD8 and CD4:CD8 ratio), anthropometric measurements, and depression scores were evaluated to compare the effects of two intensities of aerobic exercise on HIV-1 seropositive individuals. Twenty-one healthy subjects (14 men, 7 women), carriers of the HIV-1 virus (CD4>200 cells x mm(-3)), and inactive for at least 6 months, completed a 12 week exercise training program (36 sessions of 1 h, 3 times per week), in a moderate intensity group (60+/-4% of maximal heart rate) or a high intensity group (84+/-4% of maximal heart rate). Exercise capacity estimated by treadmill time was increased significantly in both moderate intensity (680+/-81 s before; 750+/-151 s after) and high intensity (651+/-122 s before; 841+/-158 s after) groups, but the high intensity group presented a significantly larger increment (p<0.01). There were no significant changes in the immunologic variables, anthropometric measurements or depression scores. Thus, HIV-seropositive individuals that participate in moderate and high intensity exercise programs are able to increase their functional capacity without any detectable changes in immunologic variables, anthropometric measurements or depression scores.

Aerobic Exercise Training for Depressive Symptom Management in Adults Living With HIV Infection . Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS care , Volume 14 , Issue 2 , Pages 30 - 40 J . Neidig , B . Smith , D . Brashers

Aerobic exercise training may help prevent or reduce depressive symptoms experienced by persons living with HIV infection. However, the psychological effects of aerobic exercise have not been studied extensively. This study evaluated the effects of an aerobic exercise training program on self-reported symptoms of depression in HIV-infected adults and examined the convergent validity of two widely used depressive symptom scales. Sixty HIV-infected adults participated in a randomized, controlled trial of a supervised 12-week aerobic exercise training program. As compared to study controls, exercise participants showed reductions in depressive symptoms on all indices, and total depressive symptoms scores were highly correlated. Additional study of the psychological effects of aerobic exercise programs in the target population is recommended.

The effect of exercise training on aerobic fitness, immune indices, and quality of life in HIV+ patients. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 30(1):11-16, January 1998. STRINGER, WILLIAM W.; BEREZOVSKAYA, MARINA; O'BRIEN, WILLIAM A.; BECK, C. KEITH; CASABURI, RICHARD

Exercise training resulted in a substantial improvement in aerobic function while immune indices were essentially unchanged. Quality of life markers improved significantly with exercise. Exercise training is safe and effective in this patient group and should be promoted for HIV+ patients

These are two great exercise web sites:

I help frustrated with my diagnosis!!!
more studies upcoming on immune based therapies and gene therapies???

  • Email Email
  • Glossary Glossary



This forum is designed for educational purposes only, and experts are not rendering medical, mental health, legal or other professional advice or services. If you have or suspect you may have a medical, mental health, legal or other problem that requires advice, consult your own caregiver, attorney or other qualified professional.

Experts appearing on this page are independent and are solely responsible for editing and fact-checking their material. Neither nor any advertiser is the publisher or speaker of posted visitors' questions or the experts' material.

Review our complete terms of use and copyright notice.

Powered by ExpertViewpoint