The following thoughts on fitness, pilates and immunity come from a client at Studio 26:
I was diagnosed with HIV in 1998. Initially, I chose to not take the medication that was being regularly prescribed at that time to HIV-positive individuals. I was "med-free" for nearly 7 years. After that period, my doctor suggested that I take low-doses of Naltrexone (used to treat opium-addicted patients), as they believed it would strengthen my immune system by boosting my endorphins (polypeptides that relieve pain by binding to neuro-receptors in the brain).
The state of my immune system was assessed each time I had blood drawn and my T-cells were measured. T-cells, a type of white blood cell that protects the body from infection, are the main target of the HIV virus; measuring them gives a person an indication of how their body is adapting to the virus. I read that if a person completed their blood work post-exercise, there would be a significant boost in his or her T-cells compared to measurement done pre-exercise.
As a self-proclaimed "gym rat", I figured that I was strengthening my immune system each time I visited the gym with my regime of weight-lifting and aerobic exercise. I decided to cease taking Naltrexone because I was so consistent at the gym; I felt as if my endorphins had increased substantially and my immune system remained relatively stable. However, as time went on, my T-cell levels started to fluctuate greatly from the low-500s to mid-800s.
Again, I became interested in how fitness could affect my immune system, this time specifically exploring if exercise could improve the overall levels and consistency of my T-cell count. I decided to do a personal experiment. Since my initial gym-rat days, I had added Pilates to my regular schedule and was working weekly with my instructor Jared Kaplan. During a day in which my doctor would be drawing for blood work, I asked Jared to really challenge me during our Pilates session. My blood was drawn later that day and when the test results came back, there was an increase in T-cells from approx. 830 to 1000. I did it a subsequent time and the count reached 1100! I continue to do Pilates, in addition to other forms of physical activity, as I believe they make a huge difference in my ability to thrive. I believe that these activities, along with maintaining a balanced lifestyle, have helped to keep me strong and healthy.
Written by George M. Edited by Whitney Rippelmeyer-Tucker.
AIDS Education and Training Centers National Resource Center. www.aidsetc.org. Accessed April 11, 2007.
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http://www.wellness.com/reference/allergies/cd4-t-cell-count-in-hiv-patients/references. Accessed December 30, 2010.