As a young kid, I began to view exercise merely as a means to lose weight.

As a young adult I educated myself about how exercise helps in many more ways than just a means of weight control. I most enjoyed weightlifting and its many benefits.

In 1984, I contracted HIV. Two years later I got my "official" diagnosis. If you recall, this was a time before cocktails and chemotherapy. My hope for survival turned immediately inward to mind, body and spirit.

As one of my close friends once told me, "A virus needs a good host to survive." I used my knowledge of exercise and nutrition as swiftly as I could to build a stronger body against my virus, so that if I ever got sick or "deathly ill" I would have plenty of reserve fuel to fall back on.

After years of hard work, I now have roughly 50 pounds of lean body mass and some fat weight in "reserve" for just such times. Lean body mass is important. Not only will it help me in times of sickness, but it adds quality to my day I would not otherwise have.

I was once told that exercise will not guarantee a longer life but will guarantee a higher quality of life. For me, it has provided just that. It has also extended my life truly in many ways. My doctor told me that, had it not been for my relentless commitment to exercise, I would be dead.

Exercise has helped me survive 17 years with HIV/AIDS, HIV-related cardiomyopathy, thyroid disease, and many other side effects from the medicines. I have gone from being in a wheelchair due to nerve pain so bad from the medicines to now running three miles a day. Exercise helps me to constantly feel just one step ahead of this disease.

Many times the pain of getting myself to exercise is harder than the pain of the exercise itself, yet I still do it, knowing that the benefit is always greater for me. I run for a while, will vomit or feel nauseous, but I let it pass and continue, knowing the much-needed benefits.

There are also times I just can't get out of the house, let alone exercise for weeks or months on end. It is then that my "reserve" has helped me most, to battle back and bring my body back to a renewed sense of well being.

I encourage any and all to exercise to the best of your ability daily! It is the quality of life we all seek that is only possible through a healthy body. AIDS has stripped and robbed me of many of my options and pleasures in life. Exercise is not one of them, thank God.

To the best of my ability, I continue to keep this 37-year-old body the "perfect host."

This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).