Exercise May Cut Fatigue In Patients

Facing fatigue from an immune system disease such as lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), or rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

You're not alone. Fatigue is common with those conditions. But walking, biking, or other low-impact aerobic exercise may reduce your fatigue, Australian researchers report.

Jane Neill, Ph.D., R.N., and colleagues reviewed 11 studies on exercise and fatigue. Their review appears in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. The studies included more than 400 patients with lupus, MS, or RA. Those are autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks the body instead of defending it.

Patients first got a thorough checkup to make sure they were healthy enough to exercise. The studies used various exercise programs for three months, on average. Patients typically worked out for 30 to 60 minutes, three times per week. Some patients took low-impact aerobics classes. Others walked, biked, or swam on their own.

In six studies, patients' fatigue improved to a degree that likely wasn't due to chance.

Inspired to give exercise a try for fatigue? You may want to consider these tips from the study:

  • Get your doctor's permission first.
  • Consider your preferences — would you rather exercise on your own at home or with others at a gym?
  • Start exercise early in the course of the disease or following disease flare.
  • Begin with low-intensity activities and avoid provoking symptoms.
  • Combine aerobic and resistance training where possible.
  • Gradually increase exercise intensity.
  • Exercise at least three times weekly for 15 to 30 minutes as tolerated.

    SOURCES: Neill, J. Journal of Advanced Nursing, December 2006; Vol. 56: pp. 617-635. News release, Journal of Advanced Nursing.

    By Miranda Hitti
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D