The team here at NAM will be taking part in a couple
of fundraising events this summer involving exercise. At the less demanding end
of the scale, a number of us (twelve so far) will be joining the annual Crusaid
Walk for Life on 7 June: see www.walkforlife.co.uk and search for NAM. This ten-kilometre
stroll is Europe’s largest sponsored walk to
support people affected by HIV and raises thousands of pounds every year for
HIV charities. We would love you to join our team and
get sponsored, have fun and help us raise vital funds for NAM. Of course if you
can’t make the day, we still need your support! Please sponsor us using the
enclosed form or at www.walkforlife.co.uk.
Passing us in the fast lane, some of the
fitter members of the team will be participating in the London Triathlon on 1
and 2 August. Watch this space for more information.
Exercise, it’s been said, is so good for
the body and mind that if it were a pill, pharmaceutical companies would be
fighting to patent it. That may seem obvious: of course being fit should mean
you get fewer illnesses. But what are the specific benefits for people with
In the post-HAART era there has been little
research on the effects of exercise on HIV infection itself. The best data we
have are from 1991, when a study1 found that an aerobic exercise
programme produced a significant CD4 count increase of about 50 cells/mm3.
Even very moderate exercise boosts the
immune system compared with doing nothing. Researchers2 measured immune function in 15 women when
they had taken a 30-minute walk and when they had spent the 30 minutes sitting
and found increases in many different parts of the immune system after exercise.
However, there is also evidence that too
much intense exercise can reduce immunity. More than 90 minutes of
high-intensity exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72
hours. This is important information for those who compete in longer events
such as marathons. The reason appears to be that very high-intensity exercise
increases the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune response.
More recently, studies of exercise have
concentrated on improvements in fat distribution, body shape and cardiovascular
health measures like cholesterol. Exercise regimens have tended to produce
consistent, but relatively small, decreases in fat accumulation inside the
abdomen, significant decreases in total cholesterol, reductions in insulin
resistance (the precursor of diabetes)3 and lowering of blood
pressure4 and triglycerides, other heart disease indicators.5
Studies of resistance6 and
aerobic exercise7 have found
significant increases in cardiovascular fitness and mood. Exercise may also have
more psychological benefits than previously thought. Even 30 minutes of
exercise has been shown to improve the mood of depressed patients8
and just six 20-minute sessions of aerobic exercise significantly reduced the
tendency of study participants to get anxious when exposed to stress.9
Aerobic exercise means exercise that gets your heart beating faster such as
running, cycling, swimming, even dancing. A good level to aim for is 20 minutes
three to four times a week.
Resistance exercise builds muscle (you don’t have to use weights: sit-ups and
press-ups are resistance exercises). Aim for about 40 minutes, one to three
times a week. Exercise all muscle groups and do an aerobic warm-up first.
For more information, look up ‘exercise’ on
Finally, don’t start any regime without
consulting your doctor and, especially with weight training, get instruction in
how to do it safely. Londoners could start at the YMCA Positive Health scheme –
see www.ymcaclub.co.uk or phone 020
7343 1700. They can also tell you about schemes elsewhere in the UK.