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Exercise is the best way to improve your cardiovascular health, and for people living with HIV, looking after the heart should be an important long-term goal.

Should I start exercising?

Let’s start with a few questions – have you ever, or do you currently experience any of the following:

  • Lack of appetite due to anxiety or as a side effect of medication?
  • Regular upper respiratory tract infections (chest infections)?
  • Fatigue when performing daily activities, whether caused by medication, stress or being out of condition after an illness?
  • Difficulty getting a satisfying night’s sleep?
  • Muscular wasting and/or a decrease in strength?
  • Increase in fat and/or high cholesterol/lipid levels?
  • High blood pressure?
  • Stress, anxiety or mild depression?
  • Negative feelings about yourself or your body?
  • Decreased bone mineral density (osteoporosis)?

If you have answered yes to any of the above then you should know that exercise could benefit you in all these areas!

What are the benefits of exercise?

Exercise can restore a person to a better state of health than before the onset of a chronic illness. It can help alleviate medication side effects, and has been linked to longer survival time.

If you’re an older adult you may find that some of the issues above are common amongst your age group, whether HIV-positive or not. However, age should not be a barrier to taking up an exercise programme to combat these issues, as exercise is a great way to maintain or improve your current levels of health and fitness.

It's also hugely beneficial to your mental health and will help if you're struggling with low self-esteem, depressionanxiety or insomnia. Read more about this in our Mental health section ››

What types of exercise would be best for me?

It’s always worth checking with your HIV Specialist or GP whether there are any forms of exercise that would not be good for you, or for any reasons that you should not exercise. However, unless you have other conditions which might impact on our ability to exercise (joint problems, heart problems etc), people with HIV are able to exercise in exactly the same way as anyone else, and don’t really need any specialist advice.

If you want some extra support, there are specific training programmes around the country such as the YMCA Positive Health Programme in London and local GP referral programmes. They all offer structured support, so check for details with your GP or local council.

Exercise does not have to be a painful experience or an annoying chore; in fact a good workout should be exhilarating and enjoyable. So instead of wondering "why exercise?" ask "why not?"

Next: Find out how to incorporate your daily activities into an active lifestyle ››



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  • I cannot recommend the YMCA programme enough !
    have been a member for 2 years and it is just brilliant.
    The PH staff are wonderful and the overall experience of the gym is great !

    Posted 14:51 Wed 02 Feb 2011