Most older adults accept the benefits of exercise. However, many do not participate in regular physical activity. Reasons include uncertainty about the best type of exercise, difficulty in starting a regimen, and the lack of incentive to continue.

For older adults with HIV, physical activity can help reduce health risks associated with aging with the disease such as heart disease. A sustained exercise program can also help you manage excess weight and obesity, both of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Obesity, which may lead to diabetes, can also be controlled by a combination of exercise and better diet. An exercise program may also be helpful in preventing cognitive impairment. Studies in the general population have found that exercise can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise programs can range from brisk walking, swimming, and lifting weights. You might also increase work in the home and garden. Weightlifting or weight machines should include instruction on proper form to avoid injuries and to be most effective. Most every study of exercise in older adults, including those with HIV, have found the most benefits from resistance exercise.

What you and your doctor can do about exercise

Before starting an exercise program, especially if you have not been active, you should confer with your physician about any health risks in engaging in physical activity. Your doctor might assess your heart health or discuss problems with shortness of breath, joint pain, conditions, or limitation that might be affected by exercising. You and your physician should set goals before starting an exercise program. You doctor might refer you to an exercise trainer for older adults for help in developing an exercise program.

What can you do about exercise?

After your doctor approves your exercise program, you might consider finding an exercise partner who can help motivate you. In addition to support from physical therapist or a coach/trainer at your gym. there are a number of online resources available. They include “Exercise and Physical Activity: Getting Fit for Life” found at: www.nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical-activity.

To achieve success with physical activity, you need to be committed and incorporate it into your lifestyle. The rewards of exercise include both improved health and enjoyment.