Declining Production: Exercise Study Reveals Broad Declines in Energy Output in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Declining Production: Exercise Study Reveals Broad Declines in Energy Output in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By Cort Johnson • on ProHealth at

This study – the fourth to suggest that metabolic issues are keeping people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome from hitting the gym (or even the streets, sometimes) – simply validates what a critical area of research exercise is, and in the most exercise-challenged illness of them all.

The Study

In this study twenty-two people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) underwent a two-exercise challenge: two exercise tests to exhaustion within 24 hours of each other. Keller examined multiple variables during the tests.

The VO2 max at peak effort of the ME/CFS patients was only 77% of expected normal in the first test, and things got worse from there.

Peaking Early: Across the Board Declines in Metabolic Functioning at Peak Effort

The broad declines in almost all the measures on the second test suggested that, yes, something went very wrong with the ME/CFS patients’ energy production system. The breadth of the declines was notable. Most successful research studies show some statistically significant abnormalities, but in this study virtually every measure of cardiovascular/metabolic functioning declined significantly and, in most cases, statistically very significantly on the second exercise test. That suggested the energy production system got whacked in just about every way possible.

The probability figures denote the probability that the results occurred by chance. A p< .05, the cutoff for a ‘significant’ or meaningful result, indicates a 5% probability that the result occurred by chance. That’s good enough for most researchers to call their study a success.

Declines in parameters of energy production in ME/CFS were broad and consistent.

We know about the problems with VO2 max (14% decline, p<.001), but Keller’s study also showed that at peak exercise the ME/CFS patient’s peak heart rates declined by about 16% (p<.001), ventilation was down by 15% (p<.003), carbon dioxide output was down by 16% (p<.001), and cardiac output (oxygen delivery) dropped by 9% (p<.003).

The ME/CFS patients’ heart functioning, breathing, rate of CO2 removal, and the amount of oxygen delivery as well as their oxygen consumption (VO2 max) declined dramatically.

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