Aerobic exercise interventions for adults living with HIV/AIDS

  • Review
  • Intervention

Authors


Abstract

Background

The profile of HIV infection is constantly changing. Although once viewed as an illness progressing to death, among those with access to antiretroviral therapy, HIV infection can now present as a disease with an uncertain natural history, perhaps a chronic manageable disease for some. Thus, the needs of persons infected with HIV have increasingly included management of impairments, disabilities and handicaps. Exercise is a key management strategy employed by rehabilitation professionals to address these issues and assist persons living with HIV/AIDS. Exercise has been shown to improve strength, cardiovascular function, and psychological status in seronegative populations (Bouchard 1993) but what are the effects of exercise for adults living with HIV infection?

If the risks and benefits of exercise for people living with HIV infection are better understood, appropriate exercise prescription may be practiced by health care providers, and may enhance the effectiveness of HIV management, thus improving the overall outcome for adults living with HIV infection.

Objectives

To examine the effect of aerobic exercise interventions on cardiopulmonary, immunological/virological and psychological parameters in adults living with HIV infection.

Search strategy

To identify the appropriate studies, we conducted a search using MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCIENCE CITATION INDEX, AIDSLINE, CINAHL, HEALTHSTAR, PSYCHLIT, SOCIOFILE, SCI, SSCI, ERIC and DAI. We also reviewed abstracts from international AIDS, ICAAC, and other major meetings. Reference lists from pertinent articles and books and personal contact with authors were also used, as were Collaborative Review Group databases and results of hand searching of targeted journals. All languages were included. Searches for the original review covered the period from 1980 to July 1999. For the purposes of this update, an additional literature search, following the same identification of studies criteria as listed above, was conducted from August 1999 to January 2001.

Selection criteria

To be selected, studies had to be randomized controlled trials involving HIV+ adults 18 years of age or older and had to include at least one group randomized to receive aerobic exercise performed at least three times/week for at least four weeks.

Data collection and analysis

Data on study design, participants, interventions, and outcomes were extracted from the reports onto specifically designed data collection forms by at least two reviewers.

Main results

A total of eight studies (six from the original search and two from the updated search) were identified that satisfied the eligibility criteria. The main results indicated that performing constant or interval aerobic exercise, or a combination of constant aerobic exercise and progressive resistive exercise for at least 20 minutes, at least three times per week for four weeks appears to be safe and may lead to clinically significant improvements in cardiopulmonary fitness. Furthermore, individual studies suggest that aerobic exercise may improve psychological well-being for adults living with HIV/AIDS. These findings are limited to those who continued to exercise and for whom there was adequate follow-up data.

Authors' conclusions

Aerobic exercise appears to be safe and may be beneficial for adults living with HIV/AIDS. These findings are limited by the small sample sizes and large drop-out rates of the included studies. Future research would benefit from an increased attention to participant follow-up and intention-to-treat analysis. Further research is required to determine the optimal parameters of aerobic exercise and stage of disease in which aerobic exercise may be most beneficial for adults living with HIV infection.

Plain language summary

Synopsis

Performing aerobic exercise for at least 20 minutes three times a week for four weeks appears to be safe and may be able to improve fitness and wellbeing for adults living with HIV/AIDS.

Exercise is a strategy used by many people who are HIV-positive to improve fitness, wellbeing and body image. It is also used as a strategy to reduce disabling consequences from chronic health problems caused by HIV infection. The review of trials found that performing constant or interval aerobic exercise, or a combination of constant aerobic exercise and progressive resistive exercise, for at least 20 minutes three times a week for at least four weeks appears to be safe and may be able to improve cardiopulmonary fitness and psychological well-being for adults living with HIV/AIDS.

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