Fibromyalgia Exercise Step 3: Listen to Your Body
If you were very active before fibromyalgia, you may need to learn a different approach to exercise now. Many people try to do too much too soon and then feel frustrated when their symptoms flare up.
“For those who were used to being athletic, we often need to teach them to listen to their body and learn to take it more slowly than they may be used to,” says Kim D. Jones, PhD, associate professor at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Nursing in Portland.
Eventually, you will learn what level of exercise is good for you and how much is too much.
Fibromyalgia Exercise Step 4: Do Something Every Day
“To get the most benefit from exercise, you really need to do it on a daily or almost daily basis,” Clauw says. “So for many people, the best options may be walking or using exercise equipment, since these are activities that are easily accessible most days of the year.”
Exercising in a warm pool is another good way to start being active. Warm water has a soothing effect on muscles and joints and may make exercise less painful. But even if you start in a pool, it’s still a good idea to work towards a ground-based workout.
“I’m not a big fan of the continued use of warm water exercise because most people don’t have access to a heated pool every day,” Clauw says.
Cycling, running, yoga, strength training, and low-impact exercise classes are just a few other ways to get exercise and help ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
“The most important thing is to find some kind of exercise you enjoy,” Matallana says. “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.”
Fibromyalgia Exercise Step 5: Modify Your Workout
Whether you’re walking or participating in an exercise class, these exercise tips can help prevent injury or pain:
- Exercise at the time of day that you feel best. For many people with fibromyalgia, this is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. But your best time may be different.
- Stretch. This can help warm up muscles and minimize pain after exercise. You can stretch while lying down, standing, or sitting in a chair. Some people may find it helpful to stretch in a warm bath or shower.
- 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. When doing stretching or strengthening exercises, alternate sides often and take a short rest between repetitions.
- Take breaks. Again, listen to your body. “When I was first starting, I’d rest after just a few minutes of exercise,” Matallana says. “Don’t be afraid to go as slowly as you need to.”
- Pamper yourself afterward. When you’re finished exercising, take a hot shower or bath.