Exercise and Mitochondrial Disease


This information guide was prepared by Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation Limited (AMDF) and is not intended to substitute professional or medical advice. While this guide has been written to help you with exercise, it cannot take into account specific individuals and their medical and physical needs and capabilities. You should speak to your doctor or healthcare professional before you start any of the programs or exercises. AMDF does not make any representation whatsoever as to the appropriateness or effectiveness of the programs for any specific individuals.  Training programs are best used in consultation with an accredited coach who can judge the needs and capabilities of each individual. Except to the extent required by law, AMDF is not responsible or liable to any person for the information or advice which is provided in the guide or any loss or injury you suffer as a result of undertaking any of the programs or exercises

Follow the link to CREATE AN EXERCISE PLAN

Benefits of exercise

  • Increasing the ability to move, aerobic capacity and endurance
  • Maintaining balance and minimising the risk of falls
  • Improving flexibility and limiting injury occurrence
  • Improving mood along with decreasing levels of depression and anxiety
  • Improving body composition
  • Slowing the onset of specific illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Increasing the energy production in the body

Inactivity and mitochondrial disease

  • Loss of motivation, energy and mobility
  • Risk of other complications (diabetes)
  • Poor mental health
  • Deterioration of mitochondrial symptoms
  • Therefore a reduction in personal independence

Exercise does not provide a cure for mitochondrial disease, however, it will improve the person’s quality of life and chances of independence. The key is to exercise correctly and know your limits.

Studies suggest:

In mitochondrial disease, exercise can give you more energy on a biochemical level by increasing the number of healthy mitochondria in the cells. Although it may increase the number of unhealthy mitochondria as well, it is still better to exercise because the overall effect is increased energy production and reduced lactate production. Research also indicates that exercise makes the body use oxygen more efficiently, increases exercise tolerance, improves mitochondrial function along with muscle metabolism, volume and performance. To maximise energy production, mitochondrial patients must remain active as the positive effects will reverse upon cessation of the exercise.


If pain, muscle cramps or excessive fatigue occur during exercise, either decrease the level and/or amount of exercise, or exercise a different muscle group. Large muscle groups, like those in the thighs, use more oxygen and hence are prone to mitochondrial myopathy. Alternate using large and smaller muscle groups such as arms, hands and fingers. Experiment with different forms of exercises and different positions such as sitting and lying down.

Follow the link to CREATE AN EXERCISE PLAN

ALL EXERCISE should be done in consultation with your specialist and GP, and managed by a physiotherapist with the help of a personal trainer or an exercise physiologist who can develop a suitable exercise program.