How Can I Start a Graded Exercise Program for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Exercise

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a condition characterized by the persistent presence of extreme exhaustion. Exercise is typically associated with increased levels of exhaustion. However, exercise is a critical component in the maintenance of overall health. While individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome may find exercise to be difficult, and is not possible in all cases, research has shown that graded exercise can actually serve to be beneficial.

Graded Exercise: What is it?

Graded exercise begins at a level that is comfortable to the individual, gradually increasing in frequency, duration, and intensity. Graded exercise is not only important for individuals suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, but is an important factor in all exercise programs. Gradual changes in exercise routines allows the body time to make the necessary coping changes necessary to deal with the increased amounts of activity. It is important to follow the graded exercise plan for maximum positive effects with minimal negative effects such as pain, soreness, and tenderness.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Graded Exercise: Is it Necessary?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is associated with feelings of extreme exhaustion. However, all days are not created equal. It is typical for individuals that suffer from CFS to have good days where symptoms are not as present, and bad days when symptoms are abundant. Exercise is necessary for all individuals to maintain and enhance muscle tone, increasing overall strength and body control. By carefully starting and maintaining a graded exercise program, in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle, it is possible to relieve and control some symptoms of CFS due to the apparent changes of increased amounts of exercise.

Graded Exercise: The Beginning

For individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome, it is suggested that the development of graded exercise program beginnings be discussed with a physician. The beginning of an exercise program should be with gentle exercises: walking, riding a stationary bike, swimming, even stretching or yoga are great gentle exercises.

Graded Exercise: Tips, Suggestions, and Hints for Success

It's All About Attitude: Generation and maintenance of a positive attitude are essential to any exercise program.

  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Start at your own pace and gradually increase your exercise at your own pace. What is most important to an exercise program is completion of schedule activity.
  • Gradual Increases: It is possible to over-extend yourself. Gradually increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of your work out program. Slow down if necessary, and only complete what is scheduled. You may feel as if more exercise is possible on a "good" day, but this may only serve to hinder overall progress if injury/strain/pain occurs.
  • Track your Progress: Keep an exercise diary. Write down your daily activities and schedule upcoming activities. Make goals, write feelings, and be proud of your accomplishments.
  • Take Time Off: If you are experiencing pain or muscle strain, it is ok to take some time off from exercising. Stretching may serve as a possibility to relieve some muscle stress caused by exercising. Time off does not mean quitting, it is a short break. Be sure to begin the exercise program as soon as you are comfortable. The more time spent away from a scheduled exercise program, typically the harder it is to re-begin.


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