Role of physical fitness training in the fibrositis/fibromyalgia syndrome

Am J Med. 1986 Sep 29;81(3A):73-7. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(86)90881-8.


Cardiovascular fitness training has been suggested as a treatment for the fibrositis/fibromyalgia syndrome. Thirty-four patients with fibrositis/fibromyalgia who met Smythe's original criteria were randomly assigned to enter either a cardiovascular fitness training program or a program consisting only of flexibility exercises. Patients met in supervised groups three times weekly for a 20-week observation period. The cardiovascular fitness group underwent gradual heart rate-elevated training using a bicycle ergometer and achieved a 29.1 +/- 24.4 percent increase in peak work capacity at 170 beats per minute (PWC-170). Patients undergoing flexibility training had a net reduction in their PWC-170 scores of 4.3 +/- 9.4 percent. Patients in the cardiovascular fitness group had statistically significant improvements in the visual analogue pain scale of current pain intensity; total myalgic scores in which pain thresholds at five fibrositic tender points selected for acceptable intra-rater and inter-rater reliability were measured using a dolorimeter; percentage total body area affected as measured by self-administered pain diagrams; and patients' and physicians' global assessment scores. Psychologic profiles as measured by Symptom Checklist-90R also improved in the cardiovascular fitness group compared with the flexibility training group. It is concluded that cardiovascular fitness training is feasible in patients with fibrositis/fibromyalgia and that such training improves subjective measurements of pain-reporting behavior. A theoretic basis for improvements in pain measurement scales and psychologic profiles is discussed in light of recent literature.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Endorphins / physiology
  • Fibromyalgia / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Exertion
  • Physical Fitness
  • Random Allocation


  • Endorphins