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Chronic Fatigue

Should People With Chronic Fatigue Consider Exercise?

Imagine feeling extremely tired all the time. So much that you don’t feel up to doing anything, getting out of bed, or having the energy to even turn in your bed. The last thing you’d probably think of is doing exercise. However, as daunting and ridiculously impossible as it may seem to perform any sort of physical exercise when you are feeling like that, exercise is actually one of the few therapies that are known to help people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

It’s completely normal to feel a bit tired, exhausted, or fatigued after having a long day or long week. But if you are persistently fatigued for at least 6 months and no amount of rest is relieving you of your exhaustion and tiredness, then you may be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 

Chronic fatigue syndrome isn’t just about feeling tired, it’s a new state of tiredness that hampers your daily activities and causes joint pains, sleep deprivation, cognitive issues, and short-term memory. These symptoms don’t just cause significant distress to the person suffering from it, they also come in the way of their normal living. 

What Causes CFS?

Also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can be theoretically caused by any viral infection or psychological stress. But the actual proven cause of ME/CFS is still unknown. Some health experts attribute the CFS disease to prolonged tiredness or exhaustion and its resultant manifestations. 

However, there is no single clinical evidence or test that confirms the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. A person suffering from this condition may need to undergo a wide range of medical tests to rule out the health problems that may be causing it so the actual reason for CFS can be pinpointed. 

Working Out With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The most commonly asked question regarding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is whether physical exercise is beneficial in relieving some of its symptoms or not. In general, working out when you are feeling tired feels like a daunting thing to do. Workout helps your body stay healthy, keeps your blood sugar levels in check, and burns excess fat. However, with people suffering from ME/CFS, this might not be the case. 

People with ME disease tend to feel tired after a workout as their energy levels drain quicker than normal people. That being said, it won’t be entirely true to say that exercising will harm a person with ME/CFS. It all depends on how you approach exercise and your fitness level, as well as the type of exercises you pick and the schedule you follow. Here are a number of tips that you can follow to plan your workout to reap its maximum benefit.

Take it Slow

Some of the early signs of CFS can be easily relieved by incorporating small and basic changes in your schedule like taking care of some basic household chores. This helps you test your physical as well as mental limits, and get you started on your journey towards healing. 

Set realistic goals

Once you get into a rhythm and regain your energy, start incorporating light aerobic exercises into your routine. Spend a few minutes on the treadmill or take a light walk in the garden.

Stick to a routine

Whatever workout regimen you follow, stick to it and do it regularly. 

Mix it up

Once you have gotten the hang of a consistent workout routine, mix it up with new activities like stretching or toning exercises.

Be gentle

There is no need to rush. Be gentle on yourself and acknowledge the progress. Don’t overdo anything and resist bringing a substantial increase in your physical activity.

Be aware of your body

Stay informed and aware of what may trigger your symptoms. Keep an eye on your body and listen to it. Although it’s helpful to have a routine, but do not push yourself if your body refuses to respond some days. Give yourself a break and rest up.

Treatment for ME/CFS

There is no specific treatment protocol or medicine for treating ME/CFS, but some over-the-counter pain medicines have been known to relieve some of the symptoms. Other than that, the following are a few specialist methods to manage ME/CFS effectively and should help you understand how to treat chronic fatigue.

Strength and Energy Management

Your energy levels vary throughout the day and efficient energy management makes it easy for you to manage your symptoms. With the right strength and energy management, you can make the best use of your energy in your daily life by monitoring your daily activities and keeping a record of everything you do during the day. You can also slip in a brief personalized exercise plan in your routine that may aid you in managing your symptoms. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Although ME/CFS is not a psychological condition, CBT has been used to help people manage some of its symptoms successfully by altering the way they think and perceive pain. 

Diet and supplements

You are what you eat. A healthy diet is just as important to manage your symptoms as a healthy exercise routine. It’s imperative that you eat regularly and maintain a balanced diet. If at any time you feel low on energy, eat foods that contain high amounts of energy, like starchy foods. Keeping a well-balanced chronic fatigue treatment diet may help you overcome some of your symptoms and elevate your energy levels.

Rest and Sleep

Pain and discomfort often result in improper or lack of sleep, while getting out of bed may seem like a difficult task. Bring a gradual change in your sleep pattern and try not to sleep during the day. Avoid oversleeping or cluster sleeping during the day to sleep peacefully at night.

Final Note

The overall experience of chronic fatigue syndrome varies from person to person. If you are suffering from this condition and experiencing some or all of its symptoms, seek the emotional support of your loved ones and consider counseling to avoid psychological burnout. It’s also important to seek immediate medical support so your doctor can diagnose you and rule out other medical conditions with similar symptoms.

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 11/08/2021

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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