08/18/2013 12:40 am ET Updated Aug 18, 2013

Exercise Could Improve Brain Functioning Among People With HIV


Exercise could help people with HIV combat a common side effect of the condition, according to a small new study.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, found that people with HIV who regularly exercised were around half as likely to have impairments in their brain functioning and experienced better working memory and information-processing than their less active counterparts.

Brain functioning problems are common among people with HIV, affecting nearly half of people who are positive for the condition, researchers noted.

"Exercise as a modifiable lifestyle behavior may reduce or potentially prevent neurocognitive impairment in HIV-infected persons," study researcher Dr. David J. Moore said in a statement. "Physical exercise, together with other modifiable lifestyle factors such as education, social engagement, cognitive stimulation and diet could be fruitful interventions to support people living with HIV."

The study, published in the Journal of NeuroVirology, included 335 people with HIV. The participants were asked how much they exercised over the last three days so that researchers could classify them as people who were significant exercisers or people who were not. They tested all the study participants on their brain functioning, including learning, information-processing, working memory and motor-functioning.

Back in 2009, Scientific American reported on a possible reason for why people with HIV experience significant memory and cognitive problems, and found that it is similar to memory loss seen in Alzheimer's, in that they both involve the protein amyloid beta (though the researchers of that study cautioned that the brains of people with HIV aren't the same as the brains of people with Alzheimer's).