Exercise
is Medicine

November NEWS LETTER

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states.”
Carol Welch

Exercise during Pregnancy
Studies suggest that, in the absence of medical or obstetric complications, exercise should be encouraged during pregnancy. Safe, appropriate exercises have minimal risks and many confirmed benefits for most women.

How does exercise help?
Exercise during pregnancy has many confirmed benefits for both mum and baby, as long as the exercise is appropriate for each stage of pregnancy. Supervised exercise sessions are ideal. These benefits include: maintenance of cardiovascular fitness and physical conditioning required for labour and motherhood; reduced risk of gestational obesity, diabetes and associated complications; reduced risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension and pre-eclampsia; prevention and alleviation of musculoskeletal conditions such as back and pelvic pain; prevention of many pregnancy-related ailments such as fatigue and constipation; enhanced mental well-being, self-esteem and body image; promotion of faster recovery after labour.
When should exercise be avoided?
For some pregnant women, there will be times when exercise and physical activity may not be appropriate or may need to be modified. It is important to be aware of these contraindications to exercise, such as: hypertension or pre-eclampsia; premature rupture of the membranes or an incompetent cervix; persistent second- or third-trimester bleeding; uncontrolled diabetes.

HIV and Exercise
HIV is a disease that is most commonly contracted through unprotected sexual intercourse and, to a lesser extent, sharing needles and syringes. People infected with the virus present with various immune irregularities. Classical symptoms of HIV include persistent flu-like symptoms; extreme and constant tiredness; anxiety and depression; fevers, chills and night sweats; unexplained rapid weight loss; swollen lymph glands; skin abnormalities; continuous coughing; diarrhea and reduced appetite. People with HIV may not have symptoms, but they still carry the virus, and can transmit it to others. Without treatment, HIV can progress to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) over a period of 10-15 years. HIV is typically treated with five main types of so-called ‘antiretroviral’ medication that target different stages of the lifecycle of the virus. Adherence to medication is critical, because if treatments are not taken properly, the virus can become resistant to medication. However, medication is not without side-effects, and this has stimulated interest in complementary treatment strategies such as exercise.
Why is exercise important?
Although advances in medication have greatly improved the life expectancy of people with HIV, medication has also turned HIV into a chronic disease associated with various co-morbidities. These co-morbidities can reduce exercise capacity and impair activities of daily living. A systematic review of the effects of exercise training revealed both physiological and psychological benefits of exercise training for people with HIV. Based on the small number of studies that met the strict criteria for inclusion in the systematic review, exercise training for people with HIV appears to be effective for improving physiological variables including:
  • cardiorespiratory fitness
  • body composition
  • functional capacity
Depression and anxiety associated with having HIV may serve to further suppress the immune system and reduce adherence to medication.
Exercise training for people with HIV helps to improve psychological variables such as:
  • anxiety and depression
  • quality of life
  • mood states
  • hope and
  • desire to continue living
Participation in physical activity or formal exercise training among people with HIV vary widely. People with HIV should avoid exhaustive exercise, but still aim to participate in moderate intensity exercise. Exercise training should be supervised by accredited exercise professionals (Biokineticists) to reduce the risk of injury and maximize the benefits of exercise.
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