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Exercise and Fibromyalgia

Overview

Exercise is one of the most important treatments for fibromyalgia. Regular exercise will strengthen your muscles, increase blood flow to the muscles, and increase your endurance. It also may reduce the risk of tiny injuries to the muscles that may cause more pain. Exercise may also help you sleep better and improve your overall sense of well-being.

Mild to moderate exercise is appropriate for most people with this condition. A balanced exercise program should include:

  • Low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, biking, or water aerobics. This is the most helpful type of exercise for people who have fibromyalgia. That is because it builds general strength and endurance.
  • Stretching exercises. This can help relax tight muscles and ease spasms.
  • Strengthening exercises to build stronger muscles.

Moderate activity is safe for most people. But it's always good to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.

Tips for exercising

Because exercise is a key treatment for fibromyalgia, it's important to build good exercise habits. Here are some tips for starting and staying with your exercise program.

  • Start slowly.

    Maybe you've been inactive for a long time because of fatigue and pain. Overexerting yourself may make your symptoms worse.

    • If 3 to 5 minutes of activity are all you can manage at first, just do that.
    • When you're ready, try to exercise a little longer at a time.
  • Build up your exercise program bit by bit.

    Aim for at least 2½ hours a week of moderate exercise. It's fine to be active in short periods of time throughout your day and week that add up to the recommended goals.

  • Stretch before and after you exercise.

    This may improve flexibility, maintain good posture, and prevent injury.

    Stretch slowly and gently. Do not bounce, but keep a gentle pull on the muscle.

  • Keep track of your exercise.

    You can do this by making a chart or diary that fits your needs.

    You may want to include what exercise you did, how long you did it, how hard you think you worked at it, and how you felt during and after the exercise. This will help you see your progress and will also allow you to advance or change your exercise program over time.

  • Stay with it.

    When you have a flare-up of your symptoms, do not stop exercising. Instead, cut back slightly.

    Try to build up to your regular routine as soon as possible so that you don't lose any of the benefits you've gained.

Credits

Current as of: March 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine

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