OBJECTIVE: To determine the feasibility of conducting a randomized controlled trial of a 12-week exercise intervention in children with fibromyalgia (FM) and to explore the effectiveness of aerobic exercise on physical fitness, function, pain, FM symptoms, and quality of life (QOL).
METHODS: FM patients ages 8-18 years were randomized to a 12-week exercise intervention of either aerobics or qigong. Both groups participated in 3 weekly training sessions. Program adherence and safety were monitored at each session. Data were collected at 3 testing sessions, 2 prior to and 1 after the intervention, and included FM symptoms, function, pain, QOL, and fitness measures.
RESULTS: Thirty patients participated in the trial. Twenty-four patients completed the program; 4 patients dropped out prior to training and 2 dropped out of the aerobics program. Better adherence was reported in the aerobics group than in the qigong group (67% versus 61%). Significant improvements in physical function, functional capacity, QOL, and fatigue were observed in the aerobics group. Anaerobic function, tender point count, pain, and symptom severity improved similarly in both groups.
CONCLUSION: It is feasible to conduct an exercise intervention trial in children with FM. Children with FM tolerate moderate-intensity exercise without exacerbation of their disease. Significant improvements in physical function, FM symptoms, QOL, and pain were demonstrated in both exercise groups; the aerobics group performed better in several measures compared with the qigong group. Future studies may need larger sample sizes to confirm clinical improvement and to detect differences in fitness in childhood FM.