Heart health is very important for people aging with HIV since they are more likely to experience heart disease. Regular exercise is one important way to ensure heart health, especially higher-intensity aerobics, and resistance/strength training (ex. lifting weights). One example of aerobics exercise is high-intensity interval training (HITT) which alternates between higher and lower levels of impact. The HITT workouts may be found online.
This study enrolled twenty-six sedentary individuals (i.e., largely non-exercising) who were aging with HIV and currently on ART. All participants were evaluated beforehand and deemed safe to participate in HITT. The participants were randomized to receive either standard care or aerobics sessions three times a week over the course of four months at a local VA Medical Center. However, those in the control group (i.e., initially received standard care) then completed sessions that consisted of HITT and resistance training three times each week for four months. The mean age of participants was 61.5 years old and 63.1% were African American, while the remaining participants were Caucasian. 94.7% of participants were male.
Perhaps not surprisingly, participants in both groups experienced increased heart health, as measured by the utilization of oxygen at peak experience performance, as well as endurance (i.e., time on a treadmill). Upper and lower body strength increased by 32% or greater in participants in both groups. This reflects how HITT plus strength training together may be an especially helpful regimen to ensure health and well-being in people aging with HIV.
Despite a small sample size, these findings demonstrate how physical activity is crucial, even as one gets older. If an exercise regimen becomes less safe for you or you find yourself less physically able to complete a given regimen, it is important to find modified options instead of quitting exercise altogether (assuming your doctor still deems you healthy for exercise overall). Ensuring your exercise regimen includes strength training and aerobics need not be a hassle or high costs: many free or low-cost locations (ex. public parks) plus supplies are available. It may also be helpful to set specific endurance or strength training-related goals for yourself: one reason for the success of this study may have been because intensity of these exercises increased as time went by and it was safe to do so. While further research is needed to find out more regarding the most ideal exercise regimen(s) plus the impact of HITT on women aging with HIV, ensuring you remain physically active is one of the most important things you can do as you age!
Source: Briggs, B. C., et al. (2021). “Feasibility and effects of high-intensity interval training in older adults living with HIV.” J Sports Sci 39(3): 304-311.