465 Exercise beneficial for chronic fatigue syndrome

September 25, 2015

written by Brian R McAvoy

Clinical question
How effective is exercise therapy for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome?

Bottom line
Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) generally benefit and feel less fatigued following exercise therapy, and no evidence suggests exercise therapy worsens outcomes. A positive effect with respect to sleep, physical function and self-perceived general health was observed, but no conclusions for the outcomes of pain, quality of life, anxiety, depression, drop-out rate and health service resources used were possible. The effectiveness of exercise therapy, in which exercise increments were set between trainer and patient, seems greater than that of pacing, in which patients set their own exercise increments, but similar to that of cognitive behavioural therapy. Exercise therapy lasted 12–26 weeks, and was performed 3–5 times/week, with a target duration of 5–15 minutes/session.

There were substantial differences in participant illness severity, as illustrated by the wide range in baseline physical functioning, depression comorbidity and illness duration. Reported results were obtained from participants who were able to participate in exercise, not from those too disabled to attend clinics.

CFS is characterised by persistent, medically unexplained fatigue, as well as symptoms such as musculoskeletal pain, sleep disturbance, headache, and impaired concentration and short-term memory. CFS presents as a common, debilitating and serious health problem.

Cochrane Systematic Review

Larun L et al. Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. Cochrane Reviews, 2015, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003200.DOI: 10.1002/14651858. CD003200.pub3. This review contains 8 studies involving 1518 participants.

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.