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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2017

Benefits of resistance exercise in lean women with fibromyalgia: involvement of IGF-1 and leptin

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2017
Jan L. Bjersing, Anette Larsson, Annie Palstam, Malin Ernberg, Indre Bileviciute-Ljungar, Monika Löfgren, Björn Gerdle, Eva Kosek, Kaisa Mannerkorpi



Chronic pain and fatigue improves by exercise in fibromyalgia (FM) but underlying mechanisms are not known. Obesity is increased among FM patients and associates with higher levels of pain. Symptom improvement after aerobic exercise is affected by body mass index (BMI) in FM. Metabolic factors such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and leptin may be involved. In this study, the aim was to evaluate the role of metabolic factors in lean, overweight and obese women during resistance exercise, in relation to symptom severity and muscle strength in women with FM.


Forty-three women participated in supervised progressive resistance exercise, twice weekly for 15-weeks. Serum free and total IGF-1, IGF-binding protein 3 (IGFBP3), adiponectin, leptin and resistin were determined at baseline and after 15-weeks. Level of current pain was rated on a visual analogue scale (0–100 mm). Level of fatigue was rated by multidimensional fatigue inventory (MFI-20) subscale general fatigue (MFIGF). Knee extension force, elbow flexion force and handgrip force were assessed by dynamometers.


Free IGF-1 (p = 0.047), IGFBP3 (p = 0.025) and leptin (p = 0.008) were significantly decreased in lean women (n = 18), but not in the overweight (n = 17) and the obese (n = 8). Lean women with FM benefited from resistance exercise with improvements in current pain (p= 0.039, n = 18), general fatigue (MFIGF, p = 0.022, n = 18) and improved elbow-flexion force (p = 0.017, n = 18). In overweight and obese women with FM there was no significant improvement in pain or fatigue but an improvement in elbow flexion (p = 0.049; p = 0.012) after 15 weeks of resistance exercise.


The clearest clinical response to resistance exercise was found in lean patients with FM. In these individuals, individualized resistance exercise was followed by changes in IGF-1 and leptin, reduced pain, fatigue and improved muscular strength. In overweight and obese women FM markers of metabolic signaling and clinical symptoms were unchanged, but strength was improved in the upper limb. Resistance exercise combined with dietary interventions might benefit patients with FM and overweight.

Trial registration

The trial was registered 21 of October 2010 with identification number: NCT01226784.
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