Patient experiences and the psychosocial benefits of group aquatic exercise to reduce symptoms of ME/CFS: a pilot study, by Suzanne Broadbent, Sonja Coetzee Rosalind Beavers & Louise Horstmanshof in Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior, [DOI: 10.1080/21641846.2020.1751455] Published online: 11 Apr 2020
The aim of the study was to explore the experiences of participants in a short aquatic exercise programme for individuals with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and to gain insight into the perceived psychosocial benefits.
The exercise programme was of five-weeks duration, with two self-paced aquatic sessions per week. Eleven female participants (mean age 54.8 ± 12.4 yr) reported the onset and changes (24–48 h) in post-exercise fatigue, pain and other symptoms after each session, and completed a post-intervention interview comprising nine open-ended questions, with additional discussions. The reported symptoms and interview responses were entered into a spreadsheet, grouped and coded to identify the themes and subthemes.
The main themes were ‘symptoms’, ‘benefits’, ‘engagement and compliance’, and ‘limitations’. The analysis found that group aquatic exercises reduced social isolation through shared experiences and enhanced support; were beneficial and enjoyable without exacerbating symptoms; were preferable to other modes of exercise; and were seen as a long-term exercise option. Participants reported a reduction in pain, fatigue and anxiety after the intervention.
Psychosocial benefits suggest that self-paced group aquatic exercise is a safe, enjoyable and effective mode of exercise rehabilitation for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.