Having fibromyalgia is no doubt a difficult disorder to deal with. Because this is a disorder that slows you down, it can make exercising with fibromyalgia even more difficult and frustrating. Not only do you have pain in multiple areas of your body, you also has nonrestorative sleep, morning stiffness and fatigue the next day. Of course, controlling stress is probably the most important step you can take to improving fibromyalgia symptoms. But you must also keep in mind the importance of regular exercise.

But what kind of exercise?

Woman with fibromyalgia

The Cochrane Collaborative reviewed multiple studies and concluded that:

  1. Aerobic exercise is the most beneficial
  2. Resistance exercise is the next best, and;
  3. You may benefit from stretching, but this has not been supported in research.

Ok, so now you are sold on exercise… Now, at what intensity should you workout to get the most benefit?

For people without fibromyalgia, we always say 65-85% of your maximum heart rate (220- your age), or we say exercise between an intensity of 15-18 on the Borg Exertion Scale (0 is deep rest and 20 is “passing out”). However, the most important thing to know about fibromyalgia and exercise, is that you probably should not exercise at a high intensity. Instead, aim for 20-60% of your target heart rate or up to a 14 on the Borg Exertion Scale.

Again, I don’t say this often, but because of your fibromyalgia, you really shouldn’t push yourself too hard if you can’t tolerate it.

Why? Because exercising at a high intensity can actually worsen symptoms and cause you to be more fatigued after your workout or the next day.

However, if you can tolerate more intense exercise — by all means do it! In some cases, it may just take your body a bit longer to adjust to higher intensities than others. But the key, again, is to make sure you at least go for a brisk walk daily for optimum results. 

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Here is a quick workout you can do at home to help your symptoms (click on the link to the exercise to view the instructional exercise video:

  1. Do a light Jog In Place for 5 minutes.
  2. Do 20 Squats with Calf Raises to target your lower body and improve your strength and symptoms.
  3. Perform the Superman exercise and for 30 seconds. Repeat one more time. This will improve your back and core strength.
  4. Finish your workout with Modified Push Ups to strengthen your upper body and improve fibromyalgia symptoms.
Do this workout at least three times per week and try to walk daily and you will hopefully note a significant improvement in your fibromyalgia symptoms.
As always, be sure you check with your doctor and follow his/her recommendations before beginning an exercise program.
References

Busch A, Schachter CL, et al: Exercise for treating fibromyalgia syn- drome. Cochrane Review. In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2004. John Wiley, Chichester, UK.

Meyer BB, Lemley KJ: Utilizing exercise to affect the symptomology of fibromyalgia: a pilot study. Med Sci Sports Exerc 32(10): 1691–1697, 2000.