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About SickKids

December 1, 2008

SickKids researchers discover the effectiveness of aerobic exercise in children with Fibromyalgia

Toronto – Bring on the winter sports and get children active this season because a new study proves once again the benefits of physical activity for children. According to a team of researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Bloorview Kids Rehab, moderate-intensity exercise can significantly improve the health and quality of life of children with Fibromyalgia (FM). This research is reported in the October issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Although there is much research on adult FM and the positive effects of exercise, childhood FM is not well understood and no formal exercise interventions with children have been studied. This was an exploratory study to determine if children could adhere to an exercise intervention program and if exercise is an appropriate component of therapy for children with FM.

The findings are based on children aged eight to 18 recruited from rheumatology and pain clinics at SickKids and Bloorview Kids Rehab. Patients participated in a 12-week exercise intervention of either an aerobics or qigong (anaerobic) program. Significant improvements in physical function, functional capacity, quality of life and fatigue (a symptom of FM) were observed in the aerobics group. Anaerobic function, tender point count, pain and symptom severity improved similarly in both groups. The study proved that it is feasible to conduct an exercise intervention in children with FM, and these children can tolerate exercise without making the disease worse.

“This research is crucial in the treatment and therapy of children with Fibromyalgia,” says Dr. Shirley Tse, the study's principal investigator, Staff Rheumatologist and Project Director in the Child Health Evaluative Sciences program at SickKids, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto . “Further research is necessary to fully understand the extent of exercise that would be most effective for these children.”

This study demonstrates further proof of the positive effects of physical activity for children. Whether a child suffers from FM or not, a little bit of aerobic exercise can go a long way. With winter just around the corner, it is important that parents find ways to get their children moving. From outdoor skating, to skiing or even a good old fashioned snowball fight, find ways to make the winter fun for your children so they can reap the benefits of staying active.