Feelin' Stronger Every Day
Strength Training, Combating Side Effects, and Promoting Positive Change
Exercise is defined by physical activity above and beyond normal activities of daily living, or ADL's for short. These may include walking to the train or bus, brushing your teeth, bathing, moderate house or yard work. Examples of exercise might be extensive yard work, walking to or from work, swimming, running, biking, gym workouts, or anything you wouldn't normally do as a day to day chore. (Yes, taking the stairs instead of the elevator counts!)
Now that we have defined and described some exercises, we can break the exercise as a whole down to its three major parts, which are:
This article concentrates on strength training, because a major fitness goal for most HIV-positive individuals should be to improve muscle mass and prevent further de-conditioning while maintaining the highest possible degree of immune function. The best way to do this is through a comprehensive yet moderate strength-training regimen, due to the increased demands placed on the body. But before you tackle the local health club or start going crazy with push-ups and lunges to build your muscles, remember a couple of pointers.
Combating Side Effects
By following the guidelines you may be able to combat some of the potentially nasty side effects from your medications with the benefits of strength training, which are many. Here are a few: increased testosterone; improved self-esteem; increased body cell mass; improved sex drive; increased appetite; improved appearance; increased metabolism; improved mood; increased bone density; improved sleep habits; increased functionality; and improved energy levels.
Strength training may also help lipodystrophy (thinning of the face and buttocks due to loss of fat deposits) and wasting (10% weight loss accompanied by chronic fever and diarrhea) in HIV-positive individuals. Also, new studies show resistance exercise could increase a persons' phase angle, which along with CD4 (T-cell) count and viral load is an important indicator of long-term survival. Phase angle is the summary of the density and therefore the healthfulness of the body's tissue. It serves as a mathematical equation between the reactance and resistance of your body's tissue. Normal ranges anywhere from 4 to 12, but ideally men should be around 6 and women around 5.
Stages of Change
Did you know that the recent Surgeon General's report recommends moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes five or more days a week as part of a healthy lifestyle. Wow! Sounds like a lot, right? So how about starting with something smaller, maybe only two or three days. Still scared, or just not convinced? Either way, you'll definitely find yourself somewhere in the seven stages of change. Try to imagine these steps in a circular pattern, and you'll get the idea. The seven stages of change are:
Anyone who has ever worked out has probably experienced all seven of these phases, and knows that action and maintenance feel the best. If you have never exercised, hopefully you will soon agree.
There are five points to a successful exercise regimen. They are as follows:
Rewards are great, just don't get carried away. There's a fine line between treating yourself and ruining all that hard work with a poor diet or not enough sleep. Remember, you'll only see the fruits of your labor if you take care of yourself. And if you do, over time, with increased strength, function, and desire, activity increases to tone muscles. Good luck, and live two ways: long and strong.
Sean P. Crawford, a clinical exercise specialist, can be reached at email@example.com.
Back to the August 2001 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.
This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.