More on Chronic Fatigue?
How can you possibly recommend 30 minutes/day of aerobic exercise to a person with Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFIDS), when that is likely to worsen their symptoms? It is doctors like you, who insist that it is "All in Your Head" that add to the depression that most CFIDS patients have to deal with. I am appalled.
I've had a lot of email about this question ever since I posted my response many months ago. Many of you have voiced anger at me for prescribing exercise and for calling CFIDS a "faddish" disease. In calling it faddish, I did not intend to downplay its reality or seriousness. I simply wanted to point out that it is of recent origin or recognition, and there is no consensus among medical scientists as to what it is.
Let me address these concerns. Chronic fatigue syndrome can be debilitating and very discouraging. One of the criteria for diagnosis is the ability to maintain only about half the activity level as before the illness set in. Short-term memory and concentration may decline substantially, and there may be recurring headaches, muscle and joint pain, and other symptoms.
You're wise in being cautious about overdoing exercise. But that doesn't mean you need to stop moving around. Physical movement is a very effective way to combat depression, which is always lurking there for people with CFIDS. For some people, exercise may mean only that you get up and walk around the room.
Some doctors do recommend against exercise because the fatigue tends to get worse after physical activity. But exercise is important for people with CFS, to preserve and increase strength. Over time, muscles will atrophy if they're not used. At the same time, you must contend with a lower energy level, and probably a higher level of fatigue after exertion. Keep in mind that you may not experience the full effects of the exertion until 24 to 72 hours later. You may want to try swimming or walking for a very limited time and distance, making sure to avoid pushing yourself to the point of fatigue. Then see how you feel over the next couple of days. If even a walk sounds overwhelming, you may want to start out with some stretches on the floor, gradually doing more and more. I'd start with three brief sessions per week.
You have probably already learned to pace yourself. If you tend to overdo, always pushing until you're ready to drop, then you'll benefit from cutting back on your overall level of activity - while still building in a little exercise. If you stay in bed most of the time, then it's important for you to try to do more daily activities. People who maintain a positive and realistic attitude tend to be able to function better over time. One way to evaluate where you stand is to keep a diary of how you feel and what you do each day. The results may be surprising.
With a slow, careful buildup, you should be able to exercise a little bit more over time. The single most important thing for you is to seek out other people who've had this diagnosis and are now well. This will inspire you to realize that you will get over it.