The benefits of exercise
Exercise can have great benefits for everyone. It can help you cope with HIV both physically and mentally. Along with good nutrition, regular exercise is a really good way of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise can help you cope with stress, anxiety and depression [1]. It can make you fitter and, in turn, strengthen your immune system. This means you would be less likely to suffer from illnesses associated with HIV or with being unfit or overweight. Having a fitter body can also help to improve your self-image and confidence. It can also help with some of the side effects of HIV treatment [2].

It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start exercising. However, if you’ve been unwell because of HIV (or anything else for that matter) then it’s advisable to take things easy until you’re feeling much better.

"I was diagnosed with AIDS over 10 years ago, and when I was rushed in to hospital, no one thought that I would have the ability to recover, especially as I had lost five stone in three weeks. However, I did recover and came through it. The main reason for this was that I had trained and exercised and was very fit. Since then I have regularly trained and put on weight as a buffer to any illness, and it has certainly helped me so far!" (Tom, 45)

How much exercise?
If you’re not used to exercise then start slowly and don’t push yourself too far. It is possible to overdo it. This is why it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor about any new exercise regime you may be considering. Remember that taking up exercise certainly doesn’t mean you need to start going for two hour sessions at the gym every day.

If you are thinking of going to a gym, then ask for a fitness instructor to show you around, and even develop a personal training programme that suits your level of fitness and what you want to achieve.

Exercise doesn’t have to be as demanding as you may think. Simple things like walking up stairs instead of using the lift or escalator, walking instead of using the car or public transport, gardening or DIY are all good forms of exercise.

There are plenty of different ways to exercise; if you can’t bear the thought of going to a gym, then have you thought of looking for an activity that you would enjoy? Some people have trouble exercising because they get bored; this happens a lot with types of exercise you may do on your own, such as jogging. If this is the case then how about looking for activities that you can do with a friend or partner, join in a fitness class or even team sports? You may discover a new enjoyable activity you would never have thought of before. Details of sports clubs specifically for gay men can be found on GMFA’s Guide to gay sports clubs and Social Groups website.

Where to exercise
You could first try your local sports centre – you can find out about sports and recreation facilities in your area through your local council or telephone directory. If you are not working and / or receiving certain state benefits then you may also be entitled to cheap or free access to your local council run gym or sports centre.

Sport England has a website called ‘Active Places’ where you can type in your postcode and find all your local sports and activity facilities. Their address is

Positive East and UKC both have small gyms available. To find out more contact Positive East on 020 7791 2855 or UKC on 0800 183 0303.

If you are looking for sports and activity clubs for gay men, then GMFA produce a guide to gay sports clubs and social groups. You can access the Guide here




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1 James A. Blumenthal, PhD, Michael A. Babyak, PhD, P. Murali Doraiswamy, MD, Lana Watkins, PhD, Benson M. Hoffman, PhD, Krista A. Barbour, PhD, Steve Herman, PhD, W. Edward Craighead, PhD, Alisha L. Brosse, PhD, Robert Waugh, MD, Alan Hinderliter, MD and Andrew Sherwood, PhD. Exercise and Pharmacotherapy in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007.
2 Exercise. AIDSMAP, 2010