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Progressive aerobic exercise improves fatigue

Presented by
Dr Martin Langeskov-Christensen, Aarhus University, Denmark
ECF 2020
In a representative sample of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, 24 weeks of progressive aerobic exercise induced a clinically relevant and long-lasting reduction in fatigue impact and seemed to positively influence walking ability and capacity. These findings from Denmark suggest that long-term progressive aerobic exercise could be recommended for MS patients.

In MS patients, fatigue and difficulty with walking are 2 of the most common and disabling symptoms. Fatigue is a multidimensional and complex symptom, affecting 70-90% of MS patients. The prevalence of walking impairment increases from 32% to 100% across the adult life span. In the last few decades, exercise has proven to be a promising approach to alleviate fatigue and to improve walking impairment.

Researchers from Denmark investigated the effects of a 24-week high-intensity progressive aerobic exercise intervention, followed by 24 weeks of follow-up, on self-reported fatigue impact and severity, objectively measured walking capacity, self-reported walking ability, and quality of life [1]. A total of 86 mildly to severely impaired MS patients were randomised to exercise or habitual lifestyle, with a 24-week crossover follow-up.

The nominal differences between group were as follows:

  • Fatigue impact, measured by the Modified Fatigue Impact Scale (MFIS) total score: Δ -5.3;
  • MFIS physical subscore: Δ -2.8;
  • MFIS psychosocial subscore: Δ -0.9;
  • Walking ability, measured by the 12-item MS Walking Scale (MSWS-12): Δ -5.9;
  • Walking capacity, measured by the 6-Minute Walk Test (6MWT): Δ +14 meters; and
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness, measured by VO2max: Δ +3.5 mL O2/min/kg.

These improvements were maintained at follow-up after 48 weeks.

No changes were observed in Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), Six Spot Step Test (SSST), nor in the physical and mental subscores of the Short Form health survey (SF-36).

  1. Langeskov-Christensen M, et al. Efficacy of aerobic exercise on fatigue, walking, and quality of life in MS. ECF 28th Annual Meeting. Abstract 26.

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