Comparison of physical and sedentary activities in CFS and their link to autonomic dysfunction

March 23, 2011


The MEA Ramsay Research Fund has been funding Professor Julia Newton and colleagues at the University of Newcastle to carry out a separate study into muscle abnormalities in ME/CFS. This study is now complete and the results are being prepared for publication.


Abstract published in QJM: an international journal of medicine on 7 March 2011.

Physical activity intensity but not sedentary activity is reduced in chronic fatigue syndrome and is associated with autonomic regulation

1. J.L. Newton1,
2. J. Pairman1,
3. K. Hallsworth1,2,
4. S. Moore1,2,
5. T. Plötz3 and
6. M.I. Trenell1,2

+ Author Affiliations

1.
From the 1UK National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre in Ageing & Age-related Disease, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK, 2MRC Centre for Brain Ageing & Vitality, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne and 3School of Computing Science, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

1. Address correspondence to Prof. J.L. Newton, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle, NE2 4HH, UK. email: j.l.newton@ncl.ac.uk

* Received January 11, 2011.
* Revision received February 4, 2011.

Abstract

Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a common debilitating condition associated with reduced function and impaired quality of life. The cause is unknown and treatments limited. Studies confirm that CFS is associated with impaired autonomic regulation and impaired muscle function.

Aim: Define the relationship between sedentary behaviour, physical activity and autonomic regulation in people with CFS.

Design: Cohort study.

Methods: Physical activity was assessed objectively in 107 CFS patients (Fukuda) and age, sex and body mass index (BMI)-matched sedentary controls (n = 107). Fatigue severity was determined using the Fatigue Impact Scale in all participants and heart rate variability performed in the CFS group.

Results:
The CFS group had levels and patterns of sedentary behaviour similar to non-fatigue controls (P  > 0.05). Seventy-nine percent of the CFS group did not achieve the WHO recommended 10 000 steps per day. Active energy expenditure [time >3 METs (metabolic equivalents)] was reduced in CFS when compared with controls (P < 0.0001). Physical activity duration was inversely associated with resting heart rate (P = 0.04; r2  = 0.03), with reduced activity significantly associating with reduced heart rate variability in CFS. There were no relationships between fatigue severity and any parameter of activity. Thirty-seven percent of the CFS group were overweight (BMI 25–29.9) and 20% obese (BMI ≥30). Conclusion: Low levels of physical activity reported in CFS represent a significant and potentially modifiable perpetuating factor in CFS and are not attributable to high levels of sedentary activity, rather a decrease in physical activity intensity. The reduction in physical activity can in part be explained by autonomic dysfunction but not fatigue severity.

* © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association of Physicians. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

6 thoughts on “Comparison of physical and sedentary activities in CFS and their link to autonomic dysfunction”

  1. Could someone please explain the meaning of this research? It seems to suggest that the reason why physical activity is reduced in CFS sufferers is because these sufferers do not engage in intensive enough activity.

    It also seems to suggest that fatigue severity is not in any way linked to physical activity – which seems bizarre and counter-intuitive.

    And it is not clear to me what change in autonomic function is linked to physical activity reduction.

    And finally it seems to endorse GET, which is concerning.

    But I have probably got the wrong end of the stick completely. Please help. Thanks.

    1. Hi, I’m new to talking to people on-line. Just googled “autonomic dysfunction”. Seems a bit “clearer”. Dreading receiving appointment for GET. Can I refuse it??? Brain fog made me forget where, but think somewhere Vitamin B1 was mentioned and might help us. Have any of you tried it? (along with everything and anything else)

  2. I dont understand the conslusions at all….

    What is sedentary activity?

    “Low levels of physical activity reported in CFS represent a significant and potentially modifiable perpetuating factor in CFS”
    – so… does that mean they are confirming that not doing enough exercise perpetuates it?
    “and are not attributable to high levels of sedentary activity, rather a decrease in physical activity intensity.”
    eh?? what??
    Is this more ‘GET will help you’ garbage?

    “The reduction in physical activity can in part be explained by autonomic dysfunction but not fatigue severity.”

    I dont understand what that means at all… i know what autonomic dysfunction is….. i think….- to do with the interplay between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system response?
    But whats that got to do with it? can someone explain please.

    And how can ‘fatigue’ (do wish they’d STOP calling it fatigue! -as if anyone feels ‘tired’!!!!) but assuming they mean _malaise_. Then how can the severity of the ‘fatigue’ *not* explain why the person does less, or less intense, physical activity??????????????

  3. Charlie and DinkoBiloba, I share your concerns. It seems as though the MEA has given money to this woman to say that people with ME/CFS are tired because they don’t do enough exercise instead of the other way around. How depressing!

  4. The MEA is paying for a separate study into muscle abnormalities by Professor Newton and her team.

    The one above is not the one we’re paying for.

    And I’m afraid I can’t help unravel the meaning of this abstract. I’m afraid it’s a bit impenetrable!

    Tony

  5. If you believe that certain treatments will have a negative affect on your symptoms, you are completely within your rights to refuse treatment. This should be at no detriment to any ongoing treatment from the same service, IE chronic fatigue service etc. HTH

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