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Can Pilates boost immunity for those infected with HIV?

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.


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