Tips for Exercising with Fibromyalgia

Karen Lee Richards | Jun 27th 2012

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Redefine exercise

For some, walking to the mailbox may be all the “exercise” some people with FM can handle at first. But the important thing is to move. Inactivity, whether it is lying down or sitting, will actually increase your FM pain. During the day, it’s essential to move frequently, even if it’s just to walk to another room and back.

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Start slowly

Most things you read will tell you to start with at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise. But if you haven’t been exercising at all, that may be way too much for you. If you overdo it and trigger a flare, you’re going to be much less likely to try again. It’s much better to start with something like two minutes and gradually increase the length of time as you’re able.

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Set your own goals

Evaluate where you are now and how much movement you get in an ordinary day. Decide how much you think you can add without triggering a flare. Gradually increase the amount of time you are moving or exercising. If you have a flare, drop back to your previous level for a while longer. The important thing is to be patient with yourself and don’t give up.

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Exercises to avoid

People with FM should avoid movements that cause muscles to contract and lengthen at the same time. This may include anything that raises your arms over your head, vacuuming, mopping, making beds, putting dishes into the dishwasher or clothes into the dryer or walking down steps or downhill.

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Exercises worth trying

When deciding what type of exercise to do, the most important thing is to choose something you enjoy. You’re much more likely to continue if you enjoy what you’re doing. Here are a few exercise activities that other FM patients have found helpful and fibro-friendly: walking, pilates and yoga.

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Water exercise

Water provides several benefits that make exercise easier, less painful and more effective. Water’s buoyancy decreases the effects of gravity, displacing 85 percent of your weight. As a result, it takes less effort to move because you don’t have to support your whole weight.

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Martial arts

Researchers at Tufts University Medical Center in Boston recently conducted a study looking at the effects of Tai Chi on fibromyalgia symptoms. Tai Chi is an Eastern form of martial arts that combines meditation, slow, gentle movement, deep breathing and relaxation. It is known for helping with muscle strength, posture, balance, sleep and coordination.