Several studies have established that systemic sclerosis patients have a reduced exercise capacity when compared to healthy individuals. It is relevant to evaluate whether aerobic exercise in systemic sclerosis patients is a safe and effective intervention to improve aerobic capacity. Seven patients without pulmonary impairment and seven healthy controls were enrolled in an 8-week program consisting of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Patients and controls had a significant improvement in peak oxygen consumption (19.72+/-3.51 vs. 22.27+/-2.53 and 22.94+/-4.70 vs. 24.55+/-3.00, respectively, p=0.006), but difference between groups was not statistically significant (p=0.149). This finding was reinforced by the fact that at the end of the study both groups were able to perform a significantly higher exercise intensity when compared to baseline, as measured by peak blood lactate (1.43+/-0.51 vs. 1.84+/-0.33 and 1.11+/-0.45 vs. 1.59+/-0.25, respectively, p=0.01). Patients improved the peak exercise oxygen saturation comparing to the baseline (84.14+/-9.86 vs. 90.29+/-5.09, p=0.048). Rodnan score was similar before and after the intervention (15.84+/-7.84 vs.12.71+/-4.31, p=0.0855). Digital ulcers and Raynaud's phenomenon remained stable. Our data support the notion that improving aerobic capacity is a feasible goal in systemic sclerosis management. The long term benefit of this intervention needs to be determined in large prospective studies.
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart New York.