Association between cognitive performance, physical fitness, and physical activity level in women with chronic fatigue syndrome


Ickmans K, Clarys P, Nijs J, Meeus M, Aerenhouts D, Zinzen E, Aelbrecht S, Meersdom G, Lambrecht L, Pattyn N


Limited scientific evidence suggests that physical activity is directly related to cognitive performance in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). To date, no other study has examined the direct relationship between cognitive performance and physical fitness in these patients. This study examined whether cognitive performance and physical fitness are associated in female patients with CFS and investigated the association between cognitive performance and physical activity level (PAL) in the same study sample. We hypothesized that patients who performed better on cognitive tasks would show increased PALs and better performance on physical tests. The study included 31 women with CFS and 13 healthy inactive women. Participants first completed three cognitive tests. Afterward, they undertook a test to determine their maximal handgrip strength, performed a bicycle ergometer test, and were provided with an activity monitor. In patients with CFS, lower peak oxygen uptake and peak heart rate were associated with slower psychomotor speed (p < 0.05). Maximal handgrip strength was correlated with working memory performance (p < 0.05). Both choice and simple reaction time were lower in patients with CFS relative to healthy controls (p < 0.05 and p < 0.001, respectively). In conclusion, physical fitness, but not PAL, is associated with cognitive performance in female patients with CFS.


J Rehabil Res Dev 2013; 50(6): 795-810

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