Exercise and Fybromyalgia: Step by Step
The debilitating effects of fybromyalgia (FMS) can cause you to perceive that this disease will never get better and that there is no hope. Don’t fall prey to this lie. Yes, FMS is devastating for a time but as many patients have seen, the effects of exercise on this disease are instrumental for its remission. You may have to start while in bed. The thing is to start somewhere. One patient began with gentle stretches in bed for about a half an hour and then rest. She gradually worked up to walking to and from her mailbox and then steadier walking on a treadmill.
The point is any efforts you make to help yourself improve will pay off. Here are some encouragements for helping you establish some type of exercise activity.
v Know that it Does Help – Exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia. It benefits all of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain, fatigue, and sleep problems. Exercise can help maintain bone mass, improve balance, reduce stress, and increase strength. Getting regular exercise can also help control your weight, which is important to reducing the pain of fibromyalgia. Even though it will be difficult at first, exercising will get easier. Be patient with your body and persevere.
v Start Slowly – The key to any new activity is to start with something small and gradually increase your activity level. Think of exercise like taking a medication that starts out with a low dose and increases over time. For example, you might start with some stretching in bed and gradually start adding five minutes of walking to it. Each week, you may add a minute to your walking time. It may take15 or 16 weeks to get to 20 minutes but that is fine. Even doing regular activities such as stairs, gardening, or doing chores can improve FMS symptoms. It doesn’t have to be a formal exercise program.
v Listen to Your Body – Many people who get fybromyalgia used to be rather athletic before their plight. As a result, many people have to learn a different approach to exercise now. You may be trying to do too much too soon and then feel frustrated when your symptoms flare up. You need to listen to your body and learn to take it more slowly than you may be used to. Eventually, you will learn what level of exercise is good for you and how much is too much.
v Do Something Every Day – In order for exercise to be really beneficial, you need to exercise every day or every other day. Walking or exercise equipment seems to do the trick since these are accessible on most days of the year. Another good way to start being active is exercising in a warm pool. Warm water has a soothing effect on muscles and joints and may make exercise less painful. However, it’s still a good idea to work towards a ground-based workout. Yoga, cycling, and low impact exercise are some good workout ideas. The most important thing is to find some kind of exercise you enjoy. Take a walk, visit your neighbor, walk the dog. If you can find a friend or family member to exercise with you that can be helpful, too.
v Modify Your Workout – Whether you are walking or in an exercise program, these helpful tips can help prevent injury or pain:
- Exercise at the time of day that you feel best.
- Stretch. This can help warm up your muscles and minimize pain after exercise.
- Take small steps. When walking, try not to swing your arms too much or take big steps. Walk on flat, even surfaces to reduce your risk of falling.
- Ease into strength training. For strengthening exercises, consider using elastic bands instead of weights and start with a single set of repetitions.
- Pace yourself. Start with one set of repetitions and alternate sides.
- Take breaks.
- Pamper yourself afterward. After exercise, take that well-deserved shower or bath.
v Be Patient – Although exercise can improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, the effects are not always immediate. Exercise is really the best long-term treatment for the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia but it can take up to six months before you notice a change in your symptoms.
Exercise is the #1 way to beat fybromyalgia. You may have to start slowly but that is fine. It may seem like it’s taking forever to reach your goals. But as you gradually increase your movement, you will feel better and notice a decrease in your symptoms.