Exercise and mental health of people living with HIV: A systematic review

Chronic Illn. 2017 Dec;13(4):299-319. doi: 10.1177/1742395317694224. Epub 2017 Feb 20.


Objective Mental illness is highly prevalent among people living with HIV. Poor mental health is linked to HIV disease progression, making the treatment of mental illness alongside HIV essential. While the benefits of exercise on the physical health of people living with HIV are well established, the effect of exercise on mental health in this population is less examined. Therefore, this study aimed to conduct a systematic literature review of the effects of exercise on mental health in people living with HIV. Methods A search of electronic databases (PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO) through 30 November 2016 was completed. The methodological framework for scoping studies was used to conduct the review process. RISMA guidelines were used to report the results. Results The search resulted in 2273 articles and 52 were determined to be relevant. After review of the full text of potentially relevant studies, 24 studies were included for the analysis. Discussion Both aerobic and resistance exercise have independent and combined positive effects on various indicators of mental health in people living with HIV. Major limitations include high attrition rate, small sample size, and poor study designs. Higher quality studies with more diverse populations such as women, older adults, and transgender individuals are required.

Keywords: Depression; HIV/AIDS; aerobic exercise; quality of life; resistance exercise.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Resistance Training