Can Exercise help with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwick, PymbleBalmain and Neutral Bay  often see people who have been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Today, we discuss the current understanding behind CFS and the role of exercise and activity pacing in managing this complex medical condition.  


CFS is a condition characterised by extreme fatigue that doesn’t go away with rest and cannot be explained by an underlying medical condition (1). The causes of CFS are not fully understood and many of the symptoms overlap with other conditions, making it difficult to diagnose. Often, it is about ruling out other causes of fatigue.


In CFS, fatigue will worsen with physical and cognitive activity, but it does not improve with rest.


CFS symptoms can include:

  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Widespread musculoskeletal pain
  • Difficulties with memory and concentration
  • Brain fog
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • ‘Flu-like’ symptoms e.g., sore throat, headache


Exercise is a key component of fatigue management and one of the few therapies known to help. It must, however, be individualised. Symptoms can vary on a day-to-day basis and can range from manageable to debilitating. Exercise prescription requires regular adjustments and the use of tools such as pacing to be effective.


Pacing is spreading out activity and energy levels throughout the day to limit booming and busting.


Boom and bust activity patterns are when you do too much on one day and feel unable to do anything the next day, due to your fatigue levels. They can be common in CFS because when people feel good, they feel they should take advantage of having more energy and do more as a result. Overtime, however, this can lead to more fatigue and a worsening of symptoms. 

Activity Pacing Diary 


Once you learn how to manage activity levels and set realistic activity expectations, pacing actually allows you to do MORE overtime. An Exercise Physiologist can help establish an activity pacing diary, patterns of fatigue, your exercise baseline and gradually work to increase your baseline. This will take some time to establish but sticking with it will ultimately be the best tool for managing your fatigue, regaining control and doing more of the things that make you happy.


Pacing is more, not less!


Exercise is essential for long term bone and joint health, mental health and cardiovascular health. This is why it’s so important people experiencing CFS establish ways to include exercise in their week. 


Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) is an approach that can also be used to increase the amount of exercise you can do without exacerbating symptoms. Simplified, it requires establishing a baseline of exercise and then gradually increasing duration of exercise, followed by the intensity of exercise. It is often used to help increase a person’s exercise capacity over the week. 


CFS can be managed very effectively when using the right tools. Our Exercise Physiologists have the experience to help you take control of CFS and get back to doing the things you enjoy. Call Longevity Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista and Neutral Bay on 1300 964 002 to enquire today.


Written by Courtney Maher



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