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Exercise and ME/CFS

Since ME/CFS patients get substantial bed rest and have excess cytokines which cause skeletal muscle destruction, as well as having the two types of fatigue mentioned above that create more muscle damage, it is important that ME/CFS patients get some exercise. However, typical physical therapy does not work, since the patients’ ability to safely exercise is limited. Any physical therapy that is undertaken has to be supervised by a physical therapist familiar with ME/CFS and the consequences of mitochondrial dysfunction with exercise. There are many studies showing that Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) can be very damaging to ME/CFS patients. 84 There is also anecdotal evidence that ME/CFS patients do not build up the muscle strength after exercise that a healthy person would.

Dr. Charles Lapp, an ME/CFS specialist at the Hunter-Hopkins Center, recommends, “Exercise no more than two to five minutes at a time and follow it up with five minutes of rest.” 85 It is essential that this sort of pacing while exercising is done so that more damage is not done and the two types of fatigue don’t develop.