I've been HIV-positive for four years and was told it's time to start taking anti-HIV meds. I'm worried about the possibility of wasting and body-fat redistribution, especially from my butt. I currently lift weights and do some cardio (not enough), but my doctor told me not to do exercises for my glutes like lunges, squats, or dead lifts because I have arthritis and degenerating discs in my spine. Is there something else I can do to keep my body'and my butt'in shape?
'Rich, Madison, Wis.
The past decade has been groundbreaking for HIV treatment with many new options now on the market, including Atripla, a once-daily regimen. I've been taking Atripla for two years now, and I haven't noticed any of the visible side effects that you mention. My energy and athletic performance have actually improved dramatically.
You are 100% correct in thinking that working out will help provide a sense of control in your current situation. As a trainer, I strongly believe in the psychological benefits of exercise. The trick is to balance your intuitive need for exercise with your physician's concerns related to your other medical conditions. This is like walking a tightrope. It's easy for me to prescribe a course of action, but you're the one who will be performing the balancing act.
With that being said, it might be time for you to master some new activities. You admit that you aren't doing enough cardio. While the primary touchstone for those of us with HIV should be resistance training, did you know that cardiovascular exercise is probably the best natural defense against depression? Just like resistance training, regular cardio exercise will result in powerful feelings of self-mastery and accomplishment.
Cardio workouts also offer the benefits of:
>stress reduction and improvement in your quality of sleep;
>release of feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins;
>reduction in cholesterol and blood pressure, which in turn lower heart attacks risks; and
>help in maintaining your ideal weight and body composition.
Swimming is one of the best total-body forms of cardio you can do, and it has virtually no impact on the joints or spine. Two other good alternatives are cycling and elliptical machines.
Finally, yoga is an ancient modality that quiets the mind while engaging the body. There are many different levels of yoga, from beginning to advanced. Many studios also offer restorative yoga, in which foam blocks are used to help ease you into the various positions without undue strain, ultimately restoring the body's sense of flexibility, balance, and harmony. But you still get a fantastic workout.
Page is a certified fitness trainer and journalist. As president of Sam Page Fitness, he operates two private studios in Southern California. He contributes to several national and international magazines and also publishes a weekly e-newsletter from Sam Page Fitness and a daily blog called Peace Love Lunges.