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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Health Center

Step 1 of 6
Action Set
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Using Graded Exercise to Get More Energy

You may be thinking, "How can I exercise when I'm so tired I can barely get through the day?" You can do it, as long as you start out very slowly and are careful not to overexert yourself. Most important, it will make you feel better.

Graded exercise starts out slowly and increases in very small steps. If your fatigue is severe, this can mean starting out with 1 minute of gentle movement, like stretching. And it means that you have a plan and you stay with it, even when you're having a good day and feel like doing more. This helps your body make the changes it needs to cope with activity and exercise.

Studies show that light aerobic exercise, such as walking, helps people who have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) feel more energetic and less tired.1 Maybe you have avoided it because you're afraid it will make you feel worse. But the opposite is true. Total rest leaves your body in worse shape. It can also hurt your self-image by making you feel as if you can't do anything for yourself.

how.gif  How can I start an exercise program?

Up Next in This Action Set:


  1. Reid S, et al. (2011). Chronic fatigue syndrome, search date March 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online:

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online:

Other Works Consulted

  • Togo F, et al. (2010). Sleep is not disrupted by exercise in patients with chronic fatigue syndromes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(1): 16–22.

  • White PD, et al. (2011). Comparison of adaptive pacing therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, graded exercise therapy, and specialist medical care for chronic fatigue syndrome (PACE): A randomised trial. Lancet, 377(9768): 823–826.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerNancy Greenwald, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Current as ofMarch 12, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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