Individualized Aerobic Exercise in Neuromuscular Diseases: A Pilot Study on the Feasibility and Preliminary Effectiveness to Improve Physical Fitness

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OBJECTIVE: Clear guidelines to prescribe aerobic exercise in neuromuscular diseases (NMD) are lacking, which hampers effective application in neuromuscular rehabilitation. This pilot study evaluated the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of an individualized aerobic exercise program according to a recently developed training guide (B-FIT) to improve physical fitness in individuals with NMD. METHODS: Thirty-one individuals who were ambulatory and had 15 different slowly progressive NMD participated in a 4-month, polarized, home-based, aerobic exercise program. The program included 2 low-intensity sessions and 1 high-intensity session per week. Feasibility outcomes were the following: completion rate, proportion of followed sessions, adverse events, and participant and therapist satisfaction based on a self-designed questionnaire. Submaximal incremental exercise tests were used to assess the effects on physical fitness. RESULTS: Twenty-six participants (84%) completed the B-FIT program, and the proportion of followed sessions was >75%. Three adverse events were reported and resolved. Regarding satisfaction, participants (based on n = 9) reported feeling fitter, but training was considered insufficiently challenging. Physical therapists (n = 5) reported that B-FIT provides a clear, well-grounded guidance. They perceived the time investment for initiating the program and the carry-over to primary care as the main barriers. The mean (SD) submaximal heart rate (based on n = 20) reduced significantly by -6.5 beats per minute (95% CI = -11.8 to -1.2), from 121.7 (16.5) at baseline to 115.2 (14.3) after intervention. Submaximal ratings of perceived exertion, anaerobic threshold, and peak workload also improved significantly (P < .05). CONCLUSION: The outcomes of this pilot study suggest that individualized aerobic exercise according to B-FIT is feasible and has potential to improve physical fitness in a wide variety of slowly progressive NMD. However, some barriers must be addressed before investigating the efficacy in a randomized controlled trial. IMPACT: The outcomes of this study demonstrate the feasibility of individualized aerobic exercise according to the B-FIT training guide and the potential to improve physical fitness in NMD. Physical therapists indicated that the use of B-FIT provides a clear, well-grounded guidance. The training guide can support health care professionals in the application of aerobic exercise in adult neuromuscular rehabilitation. LAY SUMMARY: Individualized exercise according to the B-FIT training guide is feasible in a wide variety of slowly progressive NMD and might help improve physical fitness.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberpzaa213
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number3
Early online date16 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Aerobic Exercise
  • Feasibility
  • Neuromuscular Diseases
  • Physical Fitness
  • Rehabilitation

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