Not many people are aware of what fibromyalgia is exactly, with only 3-6 % of the world’s population being diagnosed as reported by the National Fibromyalgia Association, it is a constant on going struggle which means that sadly for those of you battling with it, it makes it hard to find someone to relate to.
Fibromyalgia has been described as a syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.
If you could just take a second to imagine what it is like to be subjected to constant debilitating pain throughout the day and night, having it affect your sleep, energy levels, and causing you to feel anxious and depressed. When the simplest movement leads to pain and discomfort, all you would want to do is lay as still as possible, for as long as possible. Why would you risk getting out of bed if you’re going to feel a world of pain- least of all start an exercise program?
But exercise may be just what the doctor ordered.
Although it was previously thought to make the symptoms worse, recent studies have shown that exercise is essential for those suffering from fibromyalgia as it keeps muscles strong and flexible, controls weight and helps you stay active in other areas of life.
Now, for those of you that do have fibromyalgia you’re probably laughing at the thought of starting an exercise routine, but before you close the page- did you know that exercise has been shown to help reduce the feelings of anxiety, depression and even pain?
With the combination of discomfort, exhaustion and a sedentary lifestyle, this more often than not leads to weaker muscles. Strength training is quite important, as muscle weakness is usually a common occurrence for anyone suffering from fibromyalgia. The longer you stay inactive, the weaker your muscles will become, which leads to greater struggle in your day-to-day life.
Although the thought of getting to the gym and lifting weights may be a huge deterrent, several studies have shown that strength training can actually reduce pain and other symptoms in people with fibromyalgia. You should start initially with lifting light weights and slowly increase the weight over time but remember to consult with your doctor before engaging in any physical activity.
Aerobic activities also help to improve fitness and reduce pain and fatigue, this can be anything from taking a walk around the block, to swimming at the beach, your favourite zumba class, or even going for a bike ride- anything that gets your heart pumping for an extended period of time. The good thing is that with fibromyalgia you are able to engage in both strength and aerobic exercises- with both brining benefits to you. Your exercise routine can vary from range of motion exercises to, strengthening, or aerobic conditioning as these have all been shown to be safe and necessary.
Although you may find that your pain and fatigue may initially increase as your journey into exercise begins, the discomfort should eventually subside, but remember to always listen to your body. Find a level that is right for you.
If you have extra or unusual pain for more than two hours after exercising, you’ve done too much. Next time you exercise, slow down or do less- but never stop. You may only be able to do 10 minutes of exercise when you begin, but don’t let this be a deterrent, as it will only improve.
Whether you decide to go for walks around the neighbourhood, get down to the beach for a swim, try something new like Yoga, or start to lift those weights that you’ve always wanted too. There are many forms of activity that have been shown to improve fitness and reduce pain and fatigue, find one that speaks to you, and never stop.
Be smart, stay healthy and exercise with fibromyalgia.