Low impact aerobic exercise, such as walking and cycling, can effectively reduce fatigue in adults with chronic auto-immune conditions, according to a research review in the latest issue of the UK-based Journal of Advanced Nursing.
A team led by nurse researcher Dr Jane Neill from Flinders University in Adelaide, examined 162 research studies published between 1987 and 2006, analysing 36 in detail.
They discovered that there was evidence that people with conditions like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus could benefit from exercise that gradually increased in intensity, duration and frequency.
Fatigue is a major symptom in all three conditions and can cause a range of physical, psychological and social problems says Dr Neill.
Our review showed that aerobic exercise can significantly reduce fatigue and that some behavioural, nutritional and physiological interventions are also very effective.
Studies reviewed by the team tested 38 interventions on more than 1,700 patients. 24 resulted in statistically reduced fatigue or increased vitality levels.
The effective aerobic exercise programmes lasted an average of 12 weeks, with participants exercising for 30 to 60 minutes, three times a week.
Group interventions involved supervised exercise classes, including warm up, low impact aerobic activity and strengthening or stretching exercises before cool down.
Home-based programmes made use of exercise bicycles, walking, cycling, jogging or swimming.
There is good evidence that people experiencing fatigue from chronic auto-immune conditions can benefit from a range of non-medicinal interventions concludes Dr Neill.
Other effective strategies, apart from aerobic exercise, include health education and cognitive behavioural therapy.