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Exercise Is a MUST if You Are Battling Hepatitis C

The Editors at Hepatitis Central
May 3, 2017

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Find out how physical activity can improve Hepatitis C antiviral therapy by helping reduce its associated side effects.
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Last Reviewed November 11, 2019

Physical activity outperforms any medication out there for preserving health, yet scores of Americans don’t get nearly enough of it. Reasons for being inactive usually include not having enough time or being too tired, but those with chronic Hepatitis C will fare much better when they prioritize regular exercise. The effort it takes to habitually exercise is colossal compared to the effort required to swallow a pill, but the benefits of that effort will pay off in several different ways.

Exercise does not defeat the Hepatitis C virus directly, but physical activity’s effect on all of the body’s tissues dramatically improves a Hepatitis C prognosis.

When starting out, even ten minutes of brisk walking and 15 seconds of planking can be beneficial. Most therapists advise a gradual progression of exercise, with an eventual goal of aerobic activity for half an hour, three days of the week, and muscle-strengthening activities two days a week.

Regular Exercise Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight

Regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. When it comes to its impact on the liver:

  • Being overweight increases the number of fat cells in the liver, which can contribute to fatty liver disease and liver damage. Fat accumulation in the liver will cause inflammation and exacerbate Hepatitis C infection.
  • Carrying too much excess weight also contributes to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, which can speed the progression of liver disease in Hepatitis C.

According to Marc Ghany, MD, MHSc, a staff physician in the liver diseases branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, “There is some evidence that having excess fat in the liver, insulin resistance, and being overweight can accelerate the progression of liver damage in those with Hepatitis C.”

Ghany describes why there is even greater motivation for those with Hepatitis C to maintain an ideal weight, “The [Hepatitis C] virus needs lipid, or fat, droplets as part of its replication cycle. If you have less fat in the liver, the virus has a more difficult time replicating itself.” Thus, eliminating excess body fat via exercise hampers Hepatitis C from progressing to more advanced stages of liver disease.

Regular Exercise Also Improves Treatment

Besides being the best way to maintain a healthy weight, regular exercise also improves Hepatitis C antiviral therapy by helping reduce associated side effects and improving the odds of a successful treatment outcome. Although the Hepatitis C treatments are far more effective and cause fewer side effects now than they had just a few years ago, better fitness levels improve the treatment even more.

  • Side Effects – Some of the most common Hepatitis C treatment side effects are trouble sleeping and fatigue. Exercise can reduce both of these symptoms by enhancing circulation in the body. By strengthening circulation and the heart muscle, experts believe that the resulting improvement in oxygen exchange in the tissues leads to better quality sleep and a reduction in fatigue.
  • Better Treatment – Regular exercise leads to improvements in Hepatitis C antiviral treatment’s efficacy. The increase in circulation provided by exercise enhances the blood supply to the liver. As such, the liver has better access to the antiviral medication designed to target Hepatitis C cells. In addition, physical activity has been proven to boost the body’s immune function by promoting good circulation – which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job more efficiently. The stronger your immune system is, the more capable it is of eliminating the Hepatitis C virus.

If your doctor’s office just announced they have discovered a way to improve your experience on the Hepatitis C medications and help prevent any worsening or aggravation of the Hepatitis C virus, you would likely jump on board. Many may assume such a breakthrough would be in the form of a newly developed drug or surgical procedure. Luckily, you can administer this prescription yourself!

It turns out, this valuable Hepatitis C aid already exists. However, it requires a continual effort by the patient. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least three days of the week (like walking) and muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week is one of the most important practices you can adopt when battling Hepatitis C.

As the value of exercise continues to be recognized by physicians, you are likely to see more doctors using their prescription pad to outline a gradual exercise program for an optimal Hepatitis C prognosis.

Cassoobhoy, A., MD, MPH. (2019, April 15). Hepatitis C Diet and Exercise. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/c-diet-exercise

Exercise & Insomnia: Natural Remedy. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-does-exercise-help-those-chronic-insomnia

Exercise. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2017, from http://hepcbc.ca/exercise/

Harvard Health Publishing. (2018, July 16). How to boost your immune system. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

Nutrition and exercise. (2019, March 4). Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.hepmag.com/basics/hepatitis-c-basics/nutrition-exercise

Warner, J. (2014, June 19). The Benefits of Exercise for Hepatitis C. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from http://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/hepatitis-c-living-well/exercise-benefits/


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