Effects of Exercise on Serotonin in Fibromyalgia

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Effects of physical exercise on serum levels of serotonin and its metabolite in fibromyalgia: a randomized pilot study.

By Valéria Valim, et al.


To evaluate the effects of aerobic training and stretching on serum levels of serotonin (5HT) and its main metabolite 5-hydroxindolacetic acid (5HIAA).

Twenty-two women with FM were randomized into one of two exercise modalities (aerobic walking exercise or stretching exercise) to be accomplished three times a week for 20 weeks. The serum levels of 5HT and 5HIAA were evaluated before and after the exercise program by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with colorimetric detection.

  • Within group analysis (pre-post) showed that serum levels of both 5HT and 5HIAA changed significantly in the aerobic group during the 20-week course of therapy (5HT: P = 0,03; 5HIAA: P = 0,003).

  • In the stretching group, however, no statistically significant change was observed (5HT: P=0,491; 5HIAA: P=0,549).

  • Between group statistical comparisons of laboratory measures disclosed that aerobic training was superior to stretching in that it significantly increased the levels of 5HIAA (F test = 6.61; P = 0.01), but the average difference between groups on the levels of 5HT did not meet significance criteria (F test = 3.42; P = 0.08).

Aerobic training increases the 5HIAA and 5HT levels and it could explain why aerobic exercise can improve symptoms in fibromyalgia syndrome patient more than stretching exercise.

Source: Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia, December 2013. By Valéria Valim, Jamil Natour, Yangming Xiao, Abraão Ferraz Alves Pereira, Beatriz Baptista da Cunha Lopes, Daniel Feldman Pollak, Eliana Zandonade and Irwin Jon Russell.

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3 thoughts on “Effects of Exercise on Serotonin in Fibromyalgia”

  1. roge says:

    exercise will make your fm better. im sorry but i am so tired of these studies, it is 2014 and not the 1980s with the ol exercise and take elavil and you will be better,cmon researchers can we please try and find the main pathology here so we can better treat this terrible disease.

    1. roge says:

      this from a 43 yr old male athlete who can bow barely walk now due to chronic plantar facitis and achilles tendonitis and around 15 other tendon issues – those who say FM is just a central sensitization are so wrong, there is definitely a peripheral aspect with dysfunctionl muscles/facia and tendons. It is neuromuscular and immune system is involved as well.

    2. IanH says:

      is that it does show that some FM sufferers are no different from everyone else is response to aerobic exercise in regard to 5-HT and its metabolite. The increase in 5HT may be helpful but the study needs to go further and look at whether the immune variables and neurokinins (such as substance P) are influenced. There is nothing in the study to verify that the pain related variables are affected.

      The other thing is that if these 22 women could successfully complete the aerobic walking exercises then I suggest that their FM was moderate or mild and they did not have ME. This means they are a subset of FM patients. How were they selected?

      Always remember : these “illnesses” are heterogeneous and diagnosis (selection) is still a problem.

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