(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Everyone is told to exercise, exercise, exercise - it improves your health. Now, researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center say that it may also have benefits for a serious medical condition.
Presented at the society of Neuroscience's annual meeting - Neuroscience 2011, the study showed that six weeks of exercise substantially improved memory retention and pain control for fibromyalgia patients who were no longer being treated with medications.
Researchers found that both working memory and pain sensation suffered in the patients after their medication was withdrawn, but improved after exercise.
Memory and pain typically worsen immediately after fibromyalgia patients stop taking medication. The disorder is an interoceptive disorder, meaning that it has no apparent cause. It is characterized by widespread systemic pain, accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
"In conditions like this, the body perceives something by mistake," senior author Brian Walitt M.D. and director of the Fibromyalgia Evaluation and Research Center at Georgetown University Medical Center was quoted as saying.
He added that the pain is not psychosomatic, but is real and likely produced by the central nervous system.
For the study, researchers enrolled nine women with fibromyalgia. They used functional MRI scans to assess changes in brain function during the study.
fMRI scans "provide a definitive measure of cognitive functioning, so that we can more scientifically measure the effect of exercise," study presenter Manish Khatiwada, M.S. was quoted as saying.
"This is a novel approach to the study of fibromyalgia," Khatiwada added.
While the women were still on medication, they were given an fMRI to assess memory and a questionnaire on their level of pain. Researchers then told the women not to use their medications for a "washout" period, and had a second fMRI and memory test. After six weeks, they had another assessment. The final scan was taken after the women engaged in a six-week period of exercise. The exercise involved three 30-minute sessions of aerobic exercise with a trainer, per week.
"This study demonstrates how these symptoms change with treatment and withdrawal of treatment, and what the neurological correlates of these changes are," Walitt was quoted as saying; adding that the study is not suggestive of a change clinical care of fibromyalgia.
Khatiwada is working in the laboratory of co-author John VanMeter, Ph.D. and director of the Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging.
SOURCE: Society of Neuroscience annual meeting, Neuroscience 2011.