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Prescribed exercise in people with fibromyalgia: parallel group randomised controlled trial

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 27 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:185
  1. Selwyn C M Richards, consultant rheumatologist (srichards{at},
  2. David L Scott, professor of clinical rheumatologyb
  1. aPoole Hospital NHS Trust, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB
  2. bKing's College Hospital, London SE22 8PT
  1. Correspondence to: S C M Richards
  • Accepted 25 February 2002


Objectives: To evaluate cardiovascular fitness exercise in people with fibromyalgia

Design: Randomised controlled trial

Setting: Hospital rheumatology outpatients. Group based classes took place at a “healthy living centre.”

Participants: 132 patients with fibromyalgia.

Interventions:Prescribed graded aerobic exercise (active treatment) and relaxation and flexibility (control treatment).

Main outcome measures: Participants' self assessment of improvement, tender point count, impact of condition measured by fibromyalgia impact questionnaire, and short form McGill pain questionnaire.

Results: Compared with relaxation exercise led to significantly more participants rating themselves as much or very much better at three months: 24/69 (35%) v 12/67 (18%), P=0.03. Benefits were maintained or improved at one year follow up when fewer participants in the exercise group fulfilled the criteria for fibromyalgia (31/69 v 44/67, P=0.01). Peoplein the exercise group also had greater reductions in tender point counts (4.2 v 2.0, P=0.02) and in scores on the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (4.0 v 0.6, P=0.07).

Conclusions: Prescribed graded aerobic exercise is a simple, cheap, effective, and potentially widely available treatment for fibromyalgia.


  • Funding This study was funded by a research training fellowship of the London region of the NHS executive

  • Competing interests None declared

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