February/March 2017 (vol. 13/5)

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Research Plus

Exercise for chronic fatigue syndrome

Exercise therapy can be an effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), this Cochrane systematic review concludes. Eight studies were included, covering 1,518 participants diagnosed with CFS, with mean ages between 33 and 45 years. The exercise therapy regimes lasted between 12 and 26 weeks and were variously compared with passive controls (eg medical assessment and advice, waiting list, or relaxation/flexibility), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), cognitive therapy, supportive listening, ‘adaptive pacing therapy’ (a self-help intervention in which the individual monitors and stays within their own energy levels), pharmacological and combination treatments. Exercise therapy reduced fatigue compared with passive or no treatment (moderate quality evidence), and improved sleep (low-quality evidence), physical functioning (low) and self-rated health (moderate). There was no statistically significant difference between exercise therapy and CBT, which both improved fatigue. Exercise was superior to pacing and supportive listening, but there was insufficient evidence regarding drug-based interventions. There was no evidence that exercise worsens outcomes.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016; 12:CD003200. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003200.pub6.


Occupational Health at Work February/March 2017 (vol. 13/5) pp41