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Exercise, Therapy Can Help Gulf War Vets

Talk therapy, low-impact exercise helped reduce mental stress, study says

SATURDAY, Oct. 26, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Fatigue, distress and other mental and physical health problems suffered by American Gulf War veterans might be relieved by regular exercise and group talk therapy.

That's the finding of a study being presented today at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

The study found that three months of low-impact exercise and/or weekly group sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helped reduce the veterans' fatigue and distress and improved their mental health and ability.

Physical function improved more in veterans who received CBT compared to those who didn't have it.

The randomized study, which included 1,092 veterans at 18 hospitals, was done by researchers from the University of Michigan (U-M) Health System, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.

The veterans showed improvement whether they received exercise or CBT alone or a combination of the two, said researcher Dr. Daniel Clauw, a U-M rheumatologist, in a prepared statement. He said he's encouraged that such simple steps appear to help veterans, and added that the findings suggest this approach has real potential to improve the quality of life for these veterans.

Gulf War Syndrome is a term used to describe chronic symptoms of fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headaches, memory loss, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal symptoms affecting veterans who served in the Persian Gulf in 1990 and 1991.

All the veterans in this study had fatigue that limited their normal activities, pain in at least two parts of their body, and problems with thinking and learning abilities. Many also suffered depression, an anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

More information

Here's where to go to learn more about Gulf War Illness.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Oct. 26, 2002
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