Fitness Articles

Exercising with Fibromyalgia

The Best Exercises for People with Chronic Pain

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  • Remember something is better than nothing. Just because you don’t have the energy or strength to do a 30-minute workout doesn’t mean that 10 or 15 minutes isn't beneficial, both for the physical benefits and for staying on track with a regular program.
     
  • Tell yourself that you can stop after a few minutes if the activity seems to be doing more harm than good. Often just getting started is the tough part, but once you get going it’s usually not so difficult to continue. So tell yourself to try—and that it's OK to stop if you need to.
     
  • Give yourself plenty of workout options. Not feeling so good today? Maybe a harder workout isn’t what you need. For days when a three-mile power walk doesn’t seem feasible, consider doing a gentler workout (such as tai chi or yoga) instead. Come up with a list of exercises that are available to you so that you can choose from many options depending on your symptoms and energy levels on any given day.
     
  • Think about how you’ll feel when you’re done. You know that exercise can help reduce stress and give you more energy to tackle other activities of daily life. On top of that, exercising consistently will help you reduce the frequency of your flare-ups. Remind yourself how you’ll feel after a job well-done, and use that as a motivator to get moving.
     
  • Get support. SparkPeople has an active community of people who are living with fibromyalgia and chronic pain. These support Teams are a great place to turn when you need motivation, a word of encouragement, or tips for exercises that work for people who share your condition.
 
Finding What Works Best for You
Because fibromyalgia symptoms vary so much from person to person, there’s no single set of recommendations for how much exercise to do, how often to do it or what type is best. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to listen to your body. Pushing yourself too much is going to end up making exercise a painful experience. In one study, 70% of patients surveyed reported that strenuous physical activity was a primary aggravator of their symptoms. So start with low-intensity activities, gradually progressing to moderate intensity as you see how your body responds and your fitness level improves. Know that some days will be better than others; but do your best to focus on consistency rather than intensity.
 
Although exercise isn’t a cure, it can be a tool to that helps people with fibromyalgia enjoy a less painful and more active life.
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

Member Comments

  • Thank you for all the information! - 6/16/2013 7:58:25 AM
  • It is a Thyroid disorder and fixable!! GO TO THYROIDANSWER.COM and get this book free. He explains why hypothyroid causes all these symptoms plus many more. With all the cheap flouride in our water supply, cooking food in microwave with plastics, all the chemicals in our food...most get this when older. Going by just the TSH is crazy. I had ALL these symptoms back in 2001 and after getting on bio identical hormones and Armour thyroid, I feel great with no pain what so ever. I am 62 and can do 1 1/2 hours of spin class, plus body pump with weights and care for a active 2+year old while her mom is at work. Also go to YouTube and search fibromalgia Dr. Hotze and tons of info comes up. Look at least at this one:http://www.yo
    utube.com/wat
    ch?v=DAmsLFe-drg I hope this helps everyone. - 6/13/2013 8:16:28 PM
  • I was diagnosed in the late '90's. They didn't know as much about it then as they do now. My dr. told me she could prescribe any kind of pain pill I wanted, but the best medicine is exercise! I started out with walking, then I started using a stretchie band or tube. Now I do all kinds of different types of workouts...includ
    ing HIIT! Listen to your body. On those days where I feel uncomfortable and tired, I just do a walk or pilates/yoga. I take Savella 4 x's a day as well. I'm never ever pain free but I feel so much better now than I did in my 20's. The fatigue though...grrr! - 6/13/2013 2:49:39 PM
  • LONIANNE
    Thank You, SP, for this article. I've had "Fibro" for at least 13 years (was diagnosed in 2000), but probably had it even longer than this. Between this and the 2 spinal fusions, I don't exercise at all. There's no way that I can kneel or even lay down on the floor. But this article has given me the encouragement to try SOMETHING in the way of exercise, which I know is needed.

    And for MOMMYTO3PLUS: I am also beginning to realize that there are many things that should be eliminated from our food intake. I hate the fact that MSG & soy are so widely used. Another route that I am trying to follow is the elimination of wheat & it's partners. If you can get a hold of the book, "Wheat Belly" , you will learn a lot of things. When I cut down on those carbs, it makes a difference against my pain. No one thing will ever eliminate Fibro pain 100%, but every little bit helps. Everyone of us is affected differently, and it takes a long time to learn what works for our bodies.

    Please note: The above paragraph is NOT intended to be a slam against what Spark People has here. Weight loss helps everyone: those with arthritis, heart problems, RA, Fibromyalgia, autoimmune conditions, and those being just plain overweight.

    Also, Thank You, SP for mentioning the fact that there is a TEAM for those that suffer from Fibromyalgia right here. I was surprised about this, and at the number of people that belong to that TEAM....WOW!

    Again, a Great informative article!

    - 6/13/2013 12:29:10 PM
  • This is a great article for all sorts of things that cause pain, not just fibromyalgia! Thanks so much for the information! - 6/13/2013 10:16:34 AM
  • Good article. However, there is no mention of a symptom that some people with fibro have which is post exertional malaise. When on exerts oneself either mentally or physically, one has feels like they have the flu for a day or so. I know from personal experience. If you experience this symptom, reduce your workout to a point where you don't feel ill and slowly increase your workout time. Note the word slowly. - 6/13/2013 8:51:02 AM
  • I also have R A so what's good for one is not for the other now today is not a good day everything is swollen - 6/8/2013 8:53:43 AM
  • Thanks Jen!!
    This article reiterated many of the things that I already knew but it was encouraging to me. I have found that exercise is a great help in dealing with my fibromyalgia. When I was first diagnosed I was so afraid exercise would make me worse and in fact the opposite is true. I ride a recumbent exercise bike, lift light weights 2 days a week and do a set of core body exercises and stretching and find the combination of these have been beneficial both for my pain and for my health. There are times when a flare will stop me in my tracks for a while but when things calm down I get back to my exercise routine as soon as my body allow.
    Again thanks for a very clear article and exercise and fibromyalgia.
    Barb - 5/15/2013 11:49:52 PM
  • So glad I saw this article, I wish I would have seen it back in 2010 when I was diagnosed. There was absolutely nothing then. - 5/15/2013 6:55:40 PM
  • I find that walking helps my stiffness a lot! I walk about 6 miles or more daily and am really feeling good when I do it! I also have incorporated weightlifting (light weights) into my workouts and find that the strength training is helping me as well. There are a lot of things to do to help fight this problem and diet changes also help. Im glad that taking a more nutritious and active approach is making those of us that suffer with this feel better!

    - 5/15/2013 6:31:29 PM
  • thank you. - 5/15/2013 6:17:19 PM
  • For Gwendo51, there are countless exercises one can do without getting down on the floor. I too had difficulty getting on floor although with practice I have overcome. When I first got my knee replacements, it was impossible.
    Even on the most painful days when I have a really bad day, there is always something I can do to get in some exercise.
    I am glad the article mentions the symptoms can be vastly different , so there is no one way to handle Fibro. Each person has their own threshold of pain and tolerance.
    Hopefully one can work with a good understanding doctor and get some relief.
    There are days when pain pills are needed, but exercise, weight loss and feeling positive has been my saving grace. Water exercises even if it's just walking back and forth in a pool has done wonders to ease painful joints.
    Tisha - 5/15/2013 4:30:54 PM
  • Excellent Article! The ONLY thing that keeps my fibro at bay is exercise, exercise, exercise! - 5/15/2013 1:22:19 PM
  • Well written. A great review of what I already know, but needed to hear again.
    Thank you,
    Karen
    fibro survivor of 25 years - 5/15/2013 12:13:03 PM
  • I've had fms for over 30 yrs. When I 1st starting experiencing symptoms, I had no idea what was going. After many tests and treatments that were hit and miss, the one defining advice that my rheumo dr told me was..."I can give you any kind of pain medication you want, but the best medication is exercise"! I took her advice. I started with water workouts. Now, I can actually lift free weights, I ran a 5k for a Relay for Life fund raiser. I dropped over 20 lbs. Now I'm in the best shape I have ever been., Yes, there will be good days and bad days. Listen to your body. If its uncomfortable to do a specific exercise, don't do it. - 5/15/2013 11:04:51 AM
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