Fibromyalgia exercise can include walking, swimming, yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates. Patients are encouraged to engage in some form of low impact aerobic exercise for at least 15 minutes twice per week.
Fibromyalgia exercise refers to exercises designed for individuals suffering from fibromyalgia. There is a well-established link between the severity of fibromyalgia and exercise, but individuals suffering from the disorder often cannot participate in strenuous activity. As a result, they often forego exercise altogether, which only serves to worsen symptoms. The best solution is to partake in low impact aerobic exercise designed specifically for patients suffering from fibromyalgia.
Studies show that exercises for fibromyalgia have several potential benefits. First, they reduce muscle stiffness and reduce the number of tender points through stretching. Second, they release endorphins, which are natural pain killers that are very effective. Third, they lead to weight loss, which has been shown in several studies to decrease the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms. Fourth and finally, exercise has been shown to change brain chemistry and boost levels of serotonin by as much as 2%, leading to decrease anxiety, depression, and pain.
In addition to the specific exercises mentioned below, simple stretching is one of the best exercises for fibromyalgia. In fact, stretching is one of the simplest forms of exercise available and can be performed to sitting down or while in bed. Most experts recommend a stretch in regimen that includes 15 to 20 minutes of stretching twice daily.
Fibromyalgia Exercise 1: Walking
Walking is a low impact aerobic exercise that is perfect for people suffering from fibromyalgia or any other conditions that limits their physical activity. It can be done anywhere and provides all the same benefits as more vigorous aerobic exercise. To keep it fun and ensure that you stick with it, find a partner to share in the experience. If you belong to a fibromyalgia support group, there are likely many individuals looking for motivation to help them exercise. It is also most successful if you set goals each week in terms of duration and speed of walking. Goals help to motivate and ensure that you stick with the program. Don’t forget to include rewards for meeting those goals.
Fibromyalgia Exercise 2: Swimming
Not everyone has access to a pool, which is the reason this fibromyalgia exercise is number two and not number one. Swimming is the lowest impact aerobic exercise available. Swimming exercises nearly all muscle groups simultaneously, ensuring that the whole body gets a workout. This is important in patients suffering from fibromyalgia given that pain is often widely distributed. Another benefit of swimming is that it takes pressure off of joints, making it an excellent choice for patients who suffer from joint or arthritis.
Fibromyalgia Exercise 3: Yoga
Yoga is one of the best exercises for fibromyalgia available. What makes it so beneficial is that it can involve an extreme range of motion and can even be performed by patients who are bedridden. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Pain Research found that you can reduce pain, increase acceptance, and alter total cortisol levels in women suffering from fibromyalgia. The study found that performing yoga for 75 minutes twice weekly is enough to decrease the majority of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Reductions in cortisol levels not only have an impact on pain, but also may have an impact on weight, a major contributing factor to the severity of symptoms in fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia Exercise 4: Tai Chi
This ancient Chinese martial art involves a mind body connection and exercise. One of the benefits of this type of exercise is that it can be performed by anyone, regardless of age or functional level. In a randomized controlled trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010, researchers found that a twice weekly Tai Chi session that included self massaged, breathing techniques, and relaxation could produce large improvements in health related quality of life in patients suffering from fibromyalgia. The results were statistically significant and were even more effective than the results obtained with certain medications.
Fibromyalgia Exercise 5: Pilates
A 2009 study found that women with fibromyalgia who were involved in Pilates experienced less pain, anxiety, and depression of women not involved in this type of exercise. The study suggested that Pilates are more effective at improving pain that are relaxation and stretching. The only downside to Pilates is that they are physically strenuous and generally require an experienced teacher.
There is a great deal of research to support the efficacy of exercise in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Most physicians and other experts in the field will agree that mild to moderate aerobic exercise combined with stretching can dramatically reduce the severity of pain and fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia exercise should consist of low impact exercise that last for at least 15 minutes and is performed at least twice per week.