A study by Dr. David J. Moore and colleagues of the University of California, San Diego, found that regular exercise can help preserve the mental functioning of people with HIV infection. In spite of antiretroviral drug treatment, approximately half of the individuals with HIV have neurocognitive impairment that can be serious enough to affect daily functioning.
The researchers interviewed 335 community-dwelling HIV-positive individuals about the amount of exercise they had during the past 72 hours. Based on their responses, participants were classified into those who engaged in significant exercise, and those who did not. Researchers then tested seven cognitive areas usually affected by HIV: verbal fluency, working memory, speed of information processing, learning, recall, executive function, and motor function. The researchers also considered compounding factors such as demographics, HIV disease characteristics, substance use, past and current depression, mental health status, and physical functioning.
Results showed that HIV-infected individuals who exercised were approximately half as likely to show neurocognitive impairment compared to those who did not. They had better working memory, and could process information faster than the participants who had a sedentary lifestyle. According to Moore, exercise as a modifiable lifestyle behavior may reduce or may prevent neurocognitive impairment in HIV-infected persons. He also noted that physical exercise, along with other modifiable lifestyle factors such as education, social engagement, cognitive stimulation and diet, could be productive interventions to assist HIV-infected persons.
The full report, "Physical Exercise is Associated with Less Neurocognitive Impairment Among HIV-Infected Adults," was published online in the Journal of NeuroVirology (2013: doi: 10.1007/s13365-013-0184-8).