Moving more, feeling better with fibromyalgia

Feb 24, 2022 | Marie Suszynski, Writer | @mariemayohecs



The pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia can make it hard to want to move at all. But research shows that physical activity is a critical part of feeling better and managing your symptoms. You may wonder how you can possibly exercise when all you want to do is go to bed.

Even if you can move for only two minutes at a time at first, working up to 30 minutes of physical activity a day is a healthy choice for many reasons. Among them, regular exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off, boost your mood, give you more energy, and help you enjoy better overall health.

But if you have fibromyalgia, the benefits of physical activity don’t end there. Exercise can lessen your pain, ease depression and reduce fatigue. In addition, exercise can improve your sleep and improve your focus and concentration. These are just some of the many reasons why exercise is a mainstay of treating fibromyalgia.

What the research says

For more than 30 years, researchers have been studying the relationship between fibromyalgia and physical activity. They’ve examined timing, length of workout and exercise intensity.

Today, these studies paint a picture of what seems to work best for managing fibromyalgia:

  • Low to moderately intense exercise is best — No matter the activity, people with fibromyalgia generally find the most relief from their symptoms when they exercise at a low or moderate intensity. This is especially true for relieving pain, improving sleep and boosting mood. Studies also show that lower intensity activities keep people exercising. Put simply, when exercise gets to be too hard, it becomes easier to quit.
  • All types of exercise are helpful — When you’re choosing activities that you think will be best for you, think of the ones you enjoy doing the most. All types of exercise — from water exercises to a variety of other aerobic exercises, and from strengthening exercises to stretching — have been found to help reduce pain and improve physical functioning.
  • Water exercise may be particularly beneficial — Although more study needs to be done, researchers have found that water aerobics are among the most successful types of therapies for fibromyalgia. Water — warm water, in particular — helps people with fibromyalgia move more easily. The warmth of the water allows joints and muscles to become more flexible and reduces the sensation of pain. Water exercise is also often easier for people who haven’t been active for quite some time. If you have any sort of wound or severe respiratory problems, talk to your doctor first before getting into a warm-water pool.
  • Exercise won’t make your pain worse — Contrary to popular belief, slowly increasing your physical activity won’t worsen fibromyalgia pain. The key is to pace yourself and gradually work your way up to 30 minutes of exercise each day.


Connect with others about topics like this one in the Chronic Pain group.


Find more ways to live and move with less fibromyalgia pain by picking up a copy of Mayo Clinic Guide to Fibromyalgia.



Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Aging & Health: Take Charge blog.

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