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The Long Haul

The Long Haul


As life expectancy for those of us living with HIV has increased, so has our risk of developing "regular" health maladies, such as high cholesterol and hypertension. And being overweight can wreak havoc on one's immune system too; a 22-year study of more than 1,100 HIV patients has revealed that overweight people tend to have low CD4-cell counts. Some doctors are placing a greater emphasis on lifestyle optimization for HIVers to counteract high cholesterol, obesity, and hypertension. Basically, that means if you have HIV, you should make it a priority to eat a balanced diet and get more exercise. This will help keep your weight down and your cholesterol in check. Luckily, you already have what you need for this mission: your legs. Walking for 30 minutes every day is consistently shown to be one of the best ways to lower bad cholesterol, while increasing levels of good cholesterol. Your initial goal should be to build up to an easy 45 minute walk three to four times a week. I define "easy" as a continuous, comfortable walk where your breathing is almost normal. Start by adding some walking to your day. Walk after dinner. Or go early in the morning before work. If you can walk to work, do so. If you take public transportation, get off a stop or two early. Take advantage of lunch and break times by walking around your work area or finding a set of stairs and climb three days a week. You'll need a comfortable pair of shoes that are designed especially for running. Expect to pay $55 to $90. Running shoes provide a number of advantages over walking shoes, including better flexibility and lighter weight. Break in your shoes first by wearing them around the house, while you're commuting, and of course, while you're walking. Well-worn shoes will conform to the shape of your feet and help prevent blisters. As you walk, your heels should come into contact with the ground first. Roll your feet forward through the arches, over the balls of your feet, and to your toes. Push off from the toes to form the next step; this will reduce the likelihood of painful shin splints and tendon pulls. It's important to stretch every time you walk -- both before (the warm-up) and after (the warm-down). My rule of thumb is to do stretch exercises for five minutes every hour of walking that you do. And for your warm-down, stretch for at least 10 minutes afterward. Begin thinking of your health along a longer continuum. You can be an active participant in your health by making better choices every day. Your body will thank you! Page is a certified fitness trainer and journalist. As president of Sam Page Fitness, he operates three private studios in Southern California. He contributes to several national and international magazines and also publishes a weekly newsletter from and a daily blog at

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