A Brazilian study has found that swimming, like walking, is an effective method for reducing pain in individuals with fibromyalgia. The researchers studied women with fibromyalgia between the ages of 18-60 years old. In the study, published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in August 2016, the participants were randomly assigned to either swim or walk for 50 minutes, three times a week, for 12 weeks. They were evaluated at three points: before the exercise program, at six weeks and at 12 weeks.
The study found no significant differences in the outcomes between the swimming and walking groups, and that individuals in both groups experienced improvement in pain. Researchers also found that functional capacity and quality of life improved in both the swimming and the walking groups.
This is not the first study showing that swimming improves fibromyalgia outcomes. The Journal of Rheumatology reported on a study from 2000 where individuals with fibromyalgia were assigned pool exercises and then compared to a control group. After six months, significant differences were found between the group in the pool and the control group in disease impact, physical strength, pain severity, social functioning, psychological distress, and quality of life.
Also, note that even those who do not know how to swim can participate in pool exercises. Water exercises are often performed in shallow water, i.e., below the chest. So shop around to find a nearby pool with a water temperature that suits you. Pools that host competitive teams are usually kept at colder temperatures compared to smaller pools associated with health clubs. And, as always, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.