If you’re anything like me, when you started experiencing your fibromyalgia symptoms, exercise went right out the door. It’s hard to find the motivation to move when every fiber of your being hurts. Or when the fatigue is just too much. Or when the brain fog makes it hard to tie your shoes. Honestly, any and all of the above make exercise quite the challenge when you have fibromyalgia.
However, most experts and physicians say that exercise is a pivotal part of fibromyalgia treatment. When I spoke to my doctor about things beyond medication that would help alleviate my symptoms, especially my fatigue, his main suggestions was exercise. And honestly, I wasn’t sure where to start. So if you’re in the same boat that I’ve been in, trying to figure out what works for your body in terms of movement, I think you’ll find this post beneficial.
Similar to last week’s Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia post, I’m going to provide a disclaimer. I am in no way trying to tell you what to do or how you should exercise. I am not a doctor or a medical expert. A lot of exercising with fibromyalgia is trial and error, figuring out what works for you and your body. What I am going to advocate for is moving intuitively, in a way you enjoy and in a way that feels good. I also want to provide a list and explanation of low-impact workouts and exercises that many fibromyalgia patients use on a regular basis to help with their symptoms and overall health.
Exercises for Fibromyalgia
I personally think walking is underrated. It’s probably one of my favorite forms of exercise, but people often think it’s not intense enough to be a “real workout”. But for us fibromyalgia patients, I think it’s a great way to start moving our bodies. It’s low-impact, flexible, and you can literally do it anywhere. Walk as fast or as slow as you’d like, uphill or on flat land, outside or on a treadmill. Getting some steps in is healthy for everyone and it can be incredibly therapeutic. Walking is great for warming and loosening up your tight and sore muscles, and better yet, it’s free! My favorite way to walk is with my dog, on easy trails, while listening to podcasts. It’s one of my favorite ways to exercise!
If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen posts all over Pinterest and the rest of the Internet about how popular and effective yoga is. Honestly, yoga is another one of my favorite ways to exercise. If you’ve never done yoga, there are many different ways to practice, but it all comes back to moving with your breath. There are fast and slow classes, classes that are intense and others that are more restorative. Before I developed fibromyalgia symptoms, I was absolutely loved power vinyasa classes. They are a little more intense, building muscle and getting your heart racing. If you’re just getting back into movement, I would suggest sticking with restorative classes such as yin yoga. Don’t want to spend the money for a class? Good news! There are a ton of free yoga classes on YouTube of varying lengths and intensity. Regardless of where you’re doing yoga, don’t forget that resting and modification of poses is more than okay! Just listen to your body!
I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not much of a swimmer. I’ve never been very good at it and it’s just not my favorite way to move. However, I know it’s a wonderful way to exercise, especially for people with fibromyalgia! It’s low-impact and a little goes a long way. Swimming has been shown to reduce fibromyalgia pain as effectively, if not more so, than walking. The only downside? You need access to a pool! For many, though, this is not an issue, as many community centers and gyms have pools available for lap swimming and/or free swim.
Cycling is another low-impact form of exercise that is commonly used by fibromyalgia patients. And it’s another one at which I don’t have much skill. Don’t get me wrong, I can stay upright and all, but it’s just never really been my thing. However, I do recognize how amazing cycling can be as an exercise, especially now with a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Personally, I prefer indoor cycling, even recumbent cycling, as it’s much easier on my lower back, but you can still get the muscle-building and cardio benefits. If outdoor cycling is more your style, try going out for a nice, leisurely ride with your family or friends. It’s a great way to improve both your mental health and your pain levels.
Resistance or Weight Training
Okay this is honestly one of my favorite ways to work out. It always has been. There’s just something really fun and empowering about lifting or moving heavy things around. I know it’s definitely not for everyone, and that’s more than okay. Weight lifting is great for fibromyalgia patients because it allows you to strengthen, warm, stretch, and build muscle without being too jarring. However, be careful not to overdo it and make sure you stretch regularly. As fibromyalgia causes tense and sore muscles, make sure to warm up and cool down properly, and listen to your body!
A Few Tips for Exercising with Fibromyalgia
In my research for this post, I came across a great article from the University of Florida Center for Musculoskeletal Pain Research providing some great tips for exercising with fibromyalgia. Again, I want to reiterate that I am by no means telling how to exercise, or even that you need to. I am simply relaying the potential benefits of exercise for fibromyalgia patients. These tips from the University of Florida can help make your exercise journey that much more enjoyable.
- Use a total fitness program including exercises that improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strenght, and joint range of motion.
- Choose activities that you enjoy doing, such as walking, swimming, bicycling, dancing and resistance training.
- You can exercise during a flare, but reduce the amount of exercise by half, decrease exercise time, resistance, and intensity.
- Start slowly, doing 5 to 10 min of cardiovascular exercise and using minimal resistance for strength training exercises.
- Warm up and cool down at every exercise session.
- Progress slowly and methodically at your own pace.
- Employ proper technique, which is critical to safe and effective exercise.
- Concentrate on maintaining good posture while exercising.
- Exercise should be fun and social; try to exercise with a friend.
- Use moderate intensity, which is sufficient to improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strenght and flexibility.
- Perform exercises regularly: cardiovascular exercise: 3 to 5 times per week, strenght training: 2 to 3 times per week.
- Avoid too much exercise – you should feel energized, not exhausted, at the end of an exercise session.
You can find the rest of the article here.
Didn’t see your favorite form of exercise on the list? Comment below and let us know how you love to move!