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How does cognitive behaviour therapy reduce fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome? The role of physical activity

  • J. F. Wiborg (a1), H. Knoop (a1), M. Stulemeijer (a1), J. B. Prins (a1) and G. Bleijenberg (a1)...
Abstract
Background

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is known to reduce fatigue severity in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). How this change in symptomatology is accomplished is not yet understood. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether the effect of CBT on fatigue is mediated by an increase in physical activity.

Method

Three randomized controlled trials were reanalysed, previously conducted to evaluate the efficacy of CBT for CFS. In all samples, actigraphy was used to assess the level of physical activity prior and subsequent to treatment or a control group period. The mediation hypothesis was analysed according to guidelines of Baron & Kenny [Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1986)51, 1173–1182]. A non-parametric bootstrap approach was used to test statistical significance of the mediation effect.

Results

Although CBT effectively reduced fatigue, it did not change the level of physical activity. Furthermore, changes in physical activity were not related to changes in fatigue. Across the samples, the mean mediation effect of physical activity averaged about 1% of the total treatment effect. This effect did not yield significance in any of the samples.

Conclusions

The effect of CBT on fatigue in CFS is not mediated by a persistent increase in physical activity.

Copyright
Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: J. F. Wiborg, Expert Centre Chronic Fatigue, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB, The Netherlands. (Email: j.wiborg@nkcv.umcn.nl)
Linked references
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

JR Price , E Mitchell , E Tidy , V Hunot (2008). Cognitive behaviour therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001027. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001027.pub2.

AJ Wearden , RK Morriss , R Mullis , PL Strickland , DJ Pearson , L Appleby , IT Campbell , JA Morris (1998). Randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled treatment trial of fluoxetine and graded exercise for chronic fatigue syndrome. British Journal of Psychiatry 172, 485490.

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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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