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Physical activity in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS): assessment & its role in fatigue

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By Vercoulen JH, Bazelmans E, Swanink CM, Fennis JF, Galama JM, Jongen PJ, Hommes O, Van der Meer JW, Bleijenberg G • www.ProHealth.com • November 15, 1997


This paper describes the assessment of physical activity in
chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and investigated the following
questions: Do patients with CFS have low levels of physical
activity; is there a relationship between actual level of
physical activity and fatigue; can self-report measures
adequately assess actual level of physical activity; what is
the role of cognitions with respect to physical activity; and
are results with respect to physical activity specific to CFS?
Three different types of activity measures were used:
self-report questionnaires, a 12-day self-observation list,
and a motion-sensing device (Actometer) which was used as a
reference for actual activity level. Fifty-one patients with
CFS, 50 fatigued patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), and 53
healthy subjects participated in this study. Although none of
the self-report questionnaires showed high correlations with
the Actometer, questionnaires that require simple ratings of
specified activities were related to the Actometer and can be
used as acceptable substitutes, in contrast to instruments
that require general subjective interpretations of activity
that had low or non-significant correlations with the
Actometer. Actometer results showed that CFS patients and MS
patients had similar activity levels and both groups were
significantly less active than healthy subjects. Compared to
MS patients, CFS patients were more likely to indicate that
they had been less active than other persons they knew.
Activities which patients expected to result in higher fatigue
levels were less frequently performed. Patients with CFS had
significantly higher scores on this measure than MS patients
and healthy subjects. Low levels of physical activity were
related to severe fatigue in CFS but not in MS. In conclusion,
although CFS patients have similar low activity levels than MS
patients, there are also important differences between both
groups: in CFS cognitive factors are more prominently involved
in producing the low activity levels than in MS and in CFS
patients activity level is related to fatigue but not in MS.




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