Fibromyalgia impacts millions of Americans. The condition is characterized by muscle pain and fatigue, tender joints, headaches, difficulty sleeping and even depression. Doctors are not sure what causes fibromyalgia or why more women than men are dealing with it. But one thing is certain. Managing the condition can feel overwhelming. Given the challenges, exercise may be the last thing you want to think about. Research suggests that you think again. Being sedentary may worsen the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Get moving instead. There may not yet be a cure for fibromyalgia but there is certainly a great deal of relief to be found with exercise.

Exercise is not out with fibromyalgia

You already know that exercise works much like a magic bullet for the body as well as the mind. Researchers have found that just 30 minutes daily can improve mood, weight, flexibility, energy and quality of life. These benefits can be enjoyed even by people with fibromyalgia. Regular physical activity can help you increase flexibility and build muscle strength which will actually help you feel better.  Exercise can also help you fight fibromyalgia by improving sleep, easing stress and reducing depression.

Pedal away pain

Pamper tender joints with low-impact activities like biking, swimming or walking. If fibromyalgia pain has kept you from exercising for a while, start slowly. Try to strike some balance between pushing your body to build strength and pausing to avoid injury or burnout. You may need to start with just 5 to 15 minutes on two or three days each week. Increase exercise time by a few minutes and add more days as you are able. Ideally, you want to work up to 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Stretch after your workout to avoid injuring yourself as can happen when you stretch cold muscles

Build muscle

Weight training is also important for managing fibromyalgia. This kind of exercise builds muscle and improves range of motion. To start you can use small hand weights (they are available from 2 to 10 pounds) or resistance bands. Because fatigue is a symptom of fibromyalgia you may not be able to do as many reps as you would like. That is okay. What matters more is that you practice good form on the weight training exercises that you can do. If you aren’t sure about your form ask for help from fitness center staff or use a full length mirror.

Feel free to cut back or take a day off if your symptoms are especially severe. But don’t let that break day derail your fitness plan. Exercise is one of your most important tools for feeling better with fibromyalgia. Your choice to be active regularly can help shift your thinking about what the body is capable of and tap into a renewed feeling of control and power that fibromyalgia may have sapped.