Background: With the advent of antiretrovirals, people living with HIV are living near-normal lifespans. However, people living with HIV are at greater risk of experiencing cognitive impairment and reduced brain integrity despite well-controlled viremia. A robust literature supports exercise interventions as a method of improving cognition and structural brain integrity in older individuals without HIV. The effects of exercise on cardiometabolic, neurocognitive, and neural structures in middle-aged to older people living with HIV are less well known, with few prospective studies examining these measures. Objective: This prospective randomized clinical trial will examine the effects of a 6-month exercise training intervention compared to a 6-month stretching intervention (control) on cardiorespiratory fitness, physical function and strength, cognition, and neuroimaging measures of brain volumes and cerebral blood flow in people living with HIV. Methods: Sedentary middle-aged to older people living with HIV (ages≥40; n=150) with undetectable HIV viral load (<20 copies/mL) will be enrolled in the study. At the baseline and final visit, fasting plasma lipid, insulin, glucose, and brain neurotrophic factor concentrations; cardiorespiratory fitness; cognitive performance; brain volumes; and cerebral blood flow via a magnetic resonance imaging scan will be measured. Participants will be randomized in a 2:1 ratio to either the exercise or control stretching intervention. All participants will complete their assigned programs at a community fitness center 3 times a week for 6 months. A professional fitness trainer will provide personal training guidance at all sessions for individuals enrolled in both arms. Individuals randomized to the exercise intervention will perform endurance and strength training exercises, while those randomized to the control intervention will perform stretches to increase flexibility. A midpoint visit (at 3 months) will assess cognitive performance, and at the end point visit, subjects will undergo cardiorespiratory fitness and cognition testing, and a magnetic resonance imaging scan. Physical activity throughout the duration of the trial will be recorded using an actigraph. Results: Recruitment and data collection are complete as of December 2020. Data processing, cleaning, and organization are complete as of December 2021. Data analysis began in January 2022, with the publication of study results for primary aims 1 and 2 expected by early 2023. Conclusions: This study will investigate the effects of a 6-month aerobic and resistance exercise training intervention to improve cardiometabolic risk factors, cognitive performance, cerebral structure, and blood flow in sedentary people living with HIV. Results will inform clinicians and patients of the potential benefits of a structured aerobic exercise training program on the cognitive, functional, and cardiometabolic health status of older people living with HIV. Assessment of compliance will inform the development and implementation of future exercise programs for people living with HIV.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41421
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
StatePublished - 2023


  • HIV
  • cardiorespiratory fitness
  • cognition
  • exercise
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • resistance training


Dive into the research topics of 'Exercise Training to Improve Brain Health in Older People Living With HIV: Study Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this