I want to exercise, but I’m so fatigued that I can’t get off the couch. Help, please!
Ah, fatigue—that annoying yet faithful mate of HIV. From the virus itself, the meds, depression, hepatitis or poor diet and lost sleep, it gets a capital “P” for problematic (and pooped).
See if your doctor can find a cause—and treatment—for your fatigue. But in any case, movement can alleviate depression, stress and fatigue itself, while building resilience. Some tips:
- Begin by awakening body and spirit with a few minutes of quiet meditation. Tell yourself it’s a new day and that you can move and act.
- Start with a breakfast of carbs, like pancakes or cereal with bananas, for energy. Plan a simple activity you enjoy, such as walking or bike riding. Begin slowly, at a steady pace,to manage your energy. Listen to your body, stop when needed, sit down to recover, note how long you exercised—and be proud.
- Now set a short-term goal such as walking or biking for a set amount of time every day. After a while, you can add more time or distance or other activities.
I speak from experience: I spent 1997 to '98 at home on a feeding tube. Thankful I was alive and knowing I was worth the effort, I would get out bed and take a walk. I know you have the spirit and determination to succeed, too.
I’ve been doing the same fitness routine for almost as long as I’ve had HIV. Why have I stopped seeing improvements—especially in my abdomen?
It’s great that you’ve been working out to trim HIV-related woes, from elevated blood fats to weakened immunity. But you need to challenge your muscles by switching your routine every three to four months. Include a different ab routine in each workout session, 25 reps per set, resting one minute per set. Keep your core tight during all your upper and lower body exercises—lose the contraction and you lose the effect. Do this in everyday life, too. Walking down the street, tuck and contract your abs to improve your posture and strength.
If it’s lipo’s deep fat beefing up your belly, try weight lifting. Even without studies, it’s pretty safe to say that consistent weight lifting can help your body produce more growth hormone and testosterone (and the amino acids that help your body use it). It also boosts insulin sensitivity, helping your body process and use sugar (and avoid lipo).
Jeffrey Gross is a certified fitness trainer in Chicago.
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