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A narrative review of research on the effects of physical activity on people living with HIV and opportunities for health promotion in disadvantaged settings

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The article explores different types and effects of physical activity for people living with HIV. Considering the lack of studies done in African contexts and the disparity between research settings and natural settings, a narrative review of the literature was conducted and contextualised to South Africa. Various physical, psychological and social-cultural constraints impair the wellbeing of people living with HIV, in part by restricting their participation in physical activities. Apart from the well-studied immediate physiological benefits on health, we argue that physical-sportive group activities, such as sport or recreational games, can improve psychosocial factors and generate holistic health effects for people living with HIV. Group-activity effects could improve individuals’ motivation and adherence to participating in physical activities, provided that positive interaction and non-stigmatisation are guaranteed. However, most studies in this field have been limited to the benefits of aerobic exercise and resistance training. There has been little research on the types and different effects of physical activity and adherence to physical activity of people living with HIV in African contexts. Based on an analysis of the different types and effects, we suggest opportunities for and challenges to implementing physical activities for people living with HIV, especially in disadvantaged settings, and also identify gaps in the research to date.

Keywords: Africa; disadvantaged settings; health behaviour; literature review; psychoneuroimmunology; quality of life; social support; sports psychology; therapeutic exercise

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17Bellville,7535, South Africa

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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