Exercise & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that is not improved by rest and may be worsened by physical or mental activity. Those with CFS often suffer a substantial reduction in their ability to perform ordinary activities, and for most people with CFS exercise can be an agonizing experience.

Paradoxically, exercise has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of CFS, and in fact may have both short and long term benefits including lessening the severity of one’s fatigue and improving their ability to perform typical everyday activities. While exercise may increase the quality of life for someone with CFS, it is important to consider the type and duration of exercise as well as the individual’s tolerance.

High impact aerobics, running sprints, weight lifting to failure and other high intensity activities are not appropriate for most people with CFS. Instead, they should look at exercise simply as intentional movement designed to have a specific effect on the body with an achievable goal in mind. No special equipment is necessary, no instructional videos are required; just basic intentional movement.

If you have CFS, a good place to begin (if you are not currently active) is to exercise for 15-20 minutes, 2-3 days per week. This can include something as simple as a few yoga stretches, some core strengthening exercises, or walking on the treadmill. The key is to start small and increase per your comfort level. Don’t get caught up in the more is better attitude; doing too much, too soon will leave you sore, jaded, and feeling worse than before you started. Remember, a stable structure can’t be built without a solid foundation.

A few simple exercises to get you started:

Cat-camel up

Cat-camel up

Cat-camel down

Cat-camel down

The key with the cat-camel is to maintain a comfortable range of motion.

Dying bug start

Dying bug start

Dying bug right

Dying bug right

Dying bug left

Dying bug left

The key with the dying bug is to keep the low back pressed flat against the floor.

As little as six minutes per day of exercise has been shown to lessen the effects of chronic fatigue syndrome. Anyone who has struggled with CFS will agree that those are six long, challenging minutes. In the end, however, regular exercise will go a long way in improving the symptoms of CFS and developing one’s ability to handle everyday activities. The keys are to start small, progress as capable, and stay consistent.

If  you are dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome and are clueless when it comes to exercise, HHS can help design a program specific to your needs and abilities or work with you one-on-one in a private setting.