Exercise Benefits HIV/AIDS Patients

Exercise is a key strategy employed in the rehabilitation of HIV/AIDS patients in order to address problems such as bodily impairments (pain or weakness), activity limitations (such as inability to walk) and participation restrictions (problems faced in life situations such as inability to work). In addition, exercise has clinically significant effects on immune responsiveness (the body’s ability to oppose infections) of HIV-infected patients, causing a slowdown on the progression of the disease.

An analysis on the safety and effectiveness of aerobic exercise interventions in adults living with HIV/AIDS confirmed that aerobic exercise is safe and beneficial for HIV/AIDS patients. The study noted improvements in the immune response, heart and lung functions and psychological behavior in those individuals studied. 1 Similarly, another study stated that aerobic exercise for at least 20 minutes at a minimum of three times per week for four weeks appears to be beneficial and safe for adults living with HIV/AIDS.2 Further, supervised aerobic exercise training has also been shown to safely decrease fatigue, weight, and fat reduction in HIV-infected individuals.3

The benefits of aerobic exercising may result from the direct effect on immune response adjustment (exercise boosts the immune system) or from the psychological effects of exercise. Regular physical exercise helps to slow HIV progression and raise HIV patients’ blood count of certain specialized cells known as CD4 cells. CD4 is a type of white blood cell that helps in protection against infections and is specifically targeted by HIV. The higher the CD4 count in the blood, the better the ability of the patients to resist infections.


  1. Nixon S, O’Brien K, Glazier RH, Tynan AM. Aerobic Exercise Interventions for Adults Living with HIV/AIDS. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005; (2): CD001796.
  2. O’Brien K, Nixon S, Tynan AM, Glazier RH. Effectiveness of Aerobic Exercise in Adults Living with HIV/AIDS: Systematic Review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004; 36(10): 1659–1666.
  3. Smith BA, Neidig JL, Nickel JT, Mitchell GL, Para MF, et al. Aerobic Exercise: Effects on Parameters Related to Fatigue, Dyspnea, Weight and Body Composition in HIV-infected Adults. AIDS. 2001; 15(6): 693–701.

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