Home exercise program helps HIV-infected women

A home-based training program improves the physical fitness of HIV-positive women, according to a new study.

“HIV-infected women demonstrate extremely low levels of aerobic fitness,” Dr. Steven K. Grinspoon told Reuters Health. In fact, their level of physical fitness is often half that of other women of the same age, “which may in and of itself increase cardiovascular disease.”

Grinspoon, from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues evaluated the effects of a 16-week supervised, home-based program of aerobic exercise and progressive resistance training in 40 HIV-infected women.

The participants had a high waist-to-hip ratio and they reported body fat redistribution, which is characteristic of long-standing HIV disease or its treatment. Half of them took part in the exercise program while the others served as a comparison “control” group.

After 16 weeks, aerobic capacity and endurance-exercise time increased in the exercise group but decreased in the control group, the researchers report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

All measures of strength increased significantly more in the exercise group than in the control group, the results indicate. Also, waist circumference decreased more in the exercise group than in the control group, but body mass index, abdominal fat, and total fat did not change between the groups.

“HIV-infected women should be encouraged to perform supervised home-based aerobic and strength programs which will improve fitness (including functional status as measure by improved capacity to walk longer) and strength and improve critical cardiovascular risk parameters (e.g., to reduce elevated waist circumference),” Grinspoon advised.

“The women found it easy to implement as this was a home-based therapy, in which a physical therapist was brought into the home to train subjects,” Grinspoon added. “The program made patients feel better about their health, which may improve compliance as well.”

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, June 12, 2006.

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Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.D.