Effects of Progressive Resistance Training on Fatigue in FM

Person-centered progressive resistance training in women with FM for 15-weeks resulted in MFI-20 physical fatigue subscale improvements after adjustment for baseline differences in sleep.

Progressive resistance training helps to relieve fatigue in women with fibromyalgia (FM), according to results from a study published in Arthritis Research and Therapy. Exercise in general has been shown to be beneficial in FM; however few studies have compared measures of fatigue.

To better understand the impact of exercise, specifically resistance training, on fatigue in FM, Anna Ericsson, PT, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and colleagues conducted a sub-study of a multicenter randomized controlled trial (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01226784).

In total, 130 women aged 20-65 years who met the American College of Rheumatology 1990 classifications criteria for FM were included in the sub-study. The participants were randomized to either the resistance exercise group (n=67) or the active control group (n=63), with no notable differences in sociodemographics between the groups. Fatigue outcomes were measured with the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI-20).

High Yield Data Summary

  • Person-centered progressive resistance training in women with FM for 15-weeks resulted in MFI-20 physical fatigue subscale improvements  

Treatment took place twice per week for 15 weeks, after which participants in both groups completed a post-treatment exam (n=56; n=49). The exercise group participated in a progressive resistance exercise intervention that included 50 minutes of resistance work on large muscle groups in all extremities and the trunk. 

Approximately 62% of participants in the exercise group reached exercise loads of 80%. The active control group participated in twice weekly relaxation therapy, included autogenic training, for 25-minute sessions.

At post-treatment examination, participants in the exercise group demonstrated a significantly greater improvement in MFI-20 subscales measuring general fatigue (P= .031), physical fatigue (P= .013), and mental fatigue (P= .008) compared to the active control group. After adjustment, the change between groups remained significant for only physical fatigue (P=.044), with an effect size of 0.33. 

Notably, sleep efficiency most strongly predicted change in MFI-20 general fatigue (beta = −0.54, P= .031, R 2 = 0.05), while participating in resistant exercise and worker fewer hours weekly were significant predictors of change in physical fatigue (R 2 = 0.14).

Summary and Clinical Applicability 

“Although the improvement in physical fatigue was small in effect size, it is valuable for patients describing themselves as physically weak and becoming fatigued after doing very little, which causes deterioration in [the]quality of life and ability [of patients with FM] to manage daily activities,” the authors concluded.

Limitations and Disclosures

  • Low values of R2 for the analyzed subscales found after multiple linear regression analyses may be within the margin of error 
  • Small absolute effect size was found on MFI-20 between the 2 treatment groups 

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.


Ericsson A, Palstam A, Larsson A, et al. Resistance exercise improves physical fatigue in women with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Res Ther. 2016;18:176.

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This article originally appeared on Neurology Advisor