NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – It is safe and feasible for children with fibromyalgia to participate in an aerobic exercise program, according to findings published in the October 15th issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism. Aerobic exercise improves quality of life and physical function in this population.

“Childhood fibromyalgia (FM) is not well understood,” Dr. Shirley M. L. Tse, of the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues write. “Studies have suggested that children, like adults with FM, have increased pain and fatigue, decreased quality of life (QOL), and reduced self-efficacy in comparison with healthy controls and other patients with rheumatic disease.”

The researchers examined the effect of an aerobic fitness program in 30 children with FM who were randomly assigned to a 12-week exercise program of either aerobic cardio-dance and boxing movements or the traditional Chinese isometric posture method, qigong. Both programs consisted of a once-weekly supervised session and twice-weekly unsupervised sessions.

Twenty-four of the children (80%) completed the program. Four of the children dropped out before training and two dropped out from the aerobics program. Adherence rates were 67% in the aerobics group and 61% in the qigong group. No adverse events were reported.

“We found that aerobic training results in improvements in physical function, functional capacity, FM symptoms of fatigue, pain, and QOL in children with FM,” Dr. Tse and colleagues report. “Both programs resulted in improvements in end anaerobic power, FM symptom severity, tender point counts, and pain measures,” they note.

There were no improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, measured by VO2peak, peak anaerobic power, and VO2submax.

“Further studies may need larger sample sizes to confirm clinical improvement and to detect differences in fitness in childhood FM,” the researchers conclude.

Arthritis Rheum 2008;59:1399-1406.