What should you look for when deciding which exercises for Fibromyalgia are best for your situation?
You may want to determine the types of movement that are involved.
Quick or slow?
Big or small?
Do you have the mobility that is required?
Does it involve any equipment you don’t have access to?
Lower impact is usually preferred, but realistically, the exercise that you’ll DO is likely to be the one that works best for you. Here are some suggestions.
Take a Walk
The Mayo Clinic considers walking the number one form of exercise for fibromyalgia pain management:
- It’s low-impact, so is easier on your joints than many aerobic activities.
- The movement helps blood and lymphatic circulation, nourishing your muscles with oxygen and other nutrients while carting away cellular wastes.
- It’s a basic human movement, so most people can do it.
- No special equipment required, except good, supportive shoes.
Physicians and physical therapists typically advise beginning with 10 minute daily walks, then gradually working up to 30 minutes. Eventually an hour several times weekly is ideal for fibromyalgia exercise.
[bctt tweet=”Doctors say walking is the best #fibromyalgia #exercise for #pain management.”]
There’s no need to rush it. Increase your walking time and distance as you feel comfortable.
I’ve seen many suggestions for Fibro Folk to do things like parking far away from the grocery store to get in some extra walking. I don’t advise this.
Assuming that you have no problem making it INTO the store, what happens when an hour’s worth of shopping has you exhausted? You still have to make it to your car!
Whether alone, with a partner, or in a group, dancing is great exercise, with or without Fibro. Put on some music and dance around the living room. Grab your sweetheart and head for the dance floor. Have some fun!
Feel free to rest between tunes. It needn’t be a marathon.
Dancing can be almost magical – I’ve seen people dance with ease when they needed a cane to walk. But you might want to avoid those high-heeled Dancing With The Stars ballroom shoes.
Swimming is great exercise for almost anyone. But if you’re doing laps in the pool, you’re likely to be using the same muscles over and over again.
This might be fine in your case. Or it could be that because Fibro has already compromised many of your systems, you could end up with Repetitive Stress Disorder instead.
Warm water exercise can be soothing for sore muscles.
For most people living with Fibromyalgia, water aerobics is a better choice when it comes to water exercises. It’s considered to be the easiest workout for those who suffer from fibromyalgia pain and stiffness, even if you’re overweight.
- Your buoyancy in the water allows you to perform movements that might be impossible otherwise.
- There is little or no negative impact on your joints (as there may be with regular aerobics), but they get good blood flow to nourish and heal them.
- Water provides resistance to build muscle strength.
- Exercising in warm water can be quite soothing for sore muscles and joints.
Research conducted in Spain found that women who participated in water exercises for just an hour, three times a week for 12 weeks, reported less pain and depression, and overall improvement in their well-being.
[bctt tweet=”Water aerobics is the easiest #fibromyalgia #workout, especially in warm water!”]
Most water aerobics and other water exercise classes are in shallow water. So you don’t even have to know how to swim!
Water exercise classes, including aerobics, can be found at YMCAs, YWCAs, community centers, and physical therapy centers. You could even hire a personal trainer to come to your pool.
Yoga is a mind-body exercise that combines meditation, specific poses, deep breathing, and relaxation. A regular yoga practice can help control fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, depression, anxiety, and poor sleep.
Yoga goes beyond these benefits because it improves the overall health of your mind, body, and spirit. In fact, yoga for Fibromyalgia has dozens of physical, mental, and emotional perks that can gradually improve your symptoms naturally.
The mindfulness practiced in yoga encourages awareness, a “conversation” between mind and body. Getting in touch with what your body is telling you is an important skill when you live with chronic pain and fatigue.
Hatha yoga is a gentle style of yoga that helps improve strength and flexibility without putting stress on the joints.
Restorative yoga is highly recommended for fibromyalgia pain relief because it helps transform your brain’s reactions to pain into healing responses. It’s also great for stress reduction.
When you have a chronic illness, your brain’s response to stress causes a sort of feedback loop. It increases the intensity of your existing symptoms, while making it easier to develop new ones. Ever notice how people with Fibro NEVER just have Fibro?
The restorative form of yoga is completely relaxation-based therapy. No stretching or excessive movement. Instead, it uses gentle poses and conscious breathing to turn on the healing relaxation response throughout your body.
One of the major reasons it’s so effective, is that poses can be held for long time (sometimes ten minutes or more). This allows your body to enter into a state of complete calm and relaxation. Restorative yoga also takes advantage of yoga props – like blocks or blankets – to make poses much easier if you are experiencing pain and stiffness.
[bctt tweet=”Restorative #yoga creates healing responses in your brain. #fibromyalgia #pain #relief”]
Find a yoga teacher experienced with Fibromyalgia so you can learn the proper way to perform poses without any undue stress. Once you learn them, yoga can also be done at home. Be sure to ask about seated yoga positions that can be done on a chair if you have mobility difficulties.
Tai Chi Chuan and some forms of Qi Gong are excellent mind-body exercise that feature very low impact, slow meditative movements. They are proven to have powerful healing effects, including improved balance.
You don’t have to change your religion or become a Kung-Fu Master to practice Tai Chi. You just have to commit about 30 minutes a day, 2 to 4 times a week, to relieve stress, pain, and depression.
Tai Chi requires you to learn to regain your balance.
Image by UNE Photos, used with permission
One study (Wang, et al) published in 2010 found that just 12 weeks of Tai Chi relieved fibromyalgia symptoms and improved quality of life in participating subjects.
The study compared three subject groups:
- the first group practiced Tai Chi,
- the second group received wellness education,
- and the third group did stretching exercises.
At the end of the 12 week study, people in the Tai Chi group enjoyed significant improvements in their fibromyalgia symptoms. These subjects reported having more energy, better sleep, less pain, and an overall increase in their mental and physical wellness.
“We definitely saw better results than reported in trials of drug treatments for fibromyalgia,” the study’s leader, Dr. Wang reported to WebMD. Only 10-20 percent of patients in the Tai Chi group found it not helpful, while more than 50 percent were very excited with the exercise, saying it made them feel better.
One of the advantages of Tai Chi practice is that there is nothing strenuous about it. No running, hard kicking, punching, sparring. Nothing strenuous at all.
This makes it a very practical exercise treatment for anyone dealing with fibromyalgia or ME/CFS.
Research has shown strength training to be safe and also very beneficial for those who suffer from fibromyalgia. But please, go easy. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
Strength training using resistance bands, light free weights, or even canned food (a can of soup weighs about a pound) can help strengthen your muscles and make normal daily activities easier for you over time. You know, things like walking, climbing stairs, and chores around the house.
Mix It Up!
So you see, even though it may seem unlikely, Fibromyalgia and exercise really CAN go together. And for best results, they should.
One of the most important things to remember is to just move. Every day. Preferably at least a little bit every waking hour.
It’s also helpful to do different sorts of exercises, and not just so you don’t get bored. You need to be using all your muscles, but a different times, so nothing gets overly fatigued.
Because I’m pretty sure you want to be able to get out of bed tomorrow. 🙂
Sherri Stockman ND CHA
Vitality Empowerment Specialist
What’s your favorite way of moving that helps you with your Fibro symptoms?
Please leave your response below in the comment section. Thanks!
Take a Walk © Graham Horn, used with permission