How Much Exercise is too Much When you Have Fibromyalgia?

Exercise

Image: Freestockphotos/Armanda Mills

You may have heard that exercise is one of the best things you can do to manage fibromyalgia pain. But if you’ve ever tried to exercise with fibromyalgia, you know that overdoing it can cause painful fibromyalgia flare-ups.

So how do you balance the benefits of exercise with the possibility of making things worse? And exactly how much exercise is too much with fibromyalgia?

How Much Exercise Is Too Much?

We know that exercise has a lot of great effects on the body. It leads to weight-loss, good cardiovascular health, and lower levels of stress. And when it comes to exercising with fibromyalgia, it can actually reduce the amount of pain you feel significantly.

Most doctors will recommend getting good exercise before even prescribing medication for fibromyalgia, and staying active is a huge part of managing fibromyalgia well.

But there is, of course, the danger of triggering a fibro flare up (a sudden increase in the severity of your symptoms) when you exercise too hard.

So when you are trying to get more exercise, you want to make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard. There are a few ways you can tell if you’re over-exerting yourself. First, when you’re exercising, you don’t want to feel too out of breath.

It’s inevitable that you will have a little trouble catching your breath at first, especially if you’re new to exercising. But the old rule of thumb about exercise is that you want to keep your heart rate at about 50-85% faster than normal. That’s a little over the resting rate, but not enough to trigger a fibro flare up for most people. But if you feel like you’re having an uncomfortable amount of trouble getting enough air, you should take a break.

Essentially, if you feel like you’re exercising too hard, you probably are. Give yourself a chance to catch up. You can slowly increase the intensity of your exercise as you get more experience.

But remember that you probably won’t feel the symptoms of a fibromyalgia flare up coming on until it’s too late to stop it. So make sure you err on the side of caution. Keep things slow through the entire workout and you’ll avoid a painful flare up.

A good way to judge if you’re pushing yourself too hard is to rate your pain on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being a low amount of pain and 10 being high. If you feel like your pain is going over a 6 during a workout, it’s best to stop.

Good Exercises For Fibromyalgia

There is a surprisingly wide array of possibilities when it comes to getting good exercise for fibromyalgia. Here are some of the best options.

Walking

Look, just because you need to stay active with fibromyalgia doesn’t mean you need to start training for marathons. Just getting a long walk a few times a week can be plenty of exercise.

The CDC recommends that adults get 30 minutes of walking in five days a week. This is enough to increase your cardiovascular health, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your fibromyalgia pain and stiffness.

Stretching

One of the best things you can do for you body is to stretch regularly. Regular stretching makes the tissue in your muscles more flexible and healthy, which can reduce the amount of pain they feel.

And it also helps move blood to your muscles, which can reduce the pain and stiffness you feel during a flare up. That makes regular stretching a great exercise to add to any routine.

Water Aerobics

Exercising in a pool is actually a really good exercise for people with fibromyalgia. It’s much easier on your joints than running or walking, which can help you avoid getting sore in tender spots.

But when done correctly, it also helps raise your heart rate enough to be effective in giving you all the benefits of exercise. You can get started, and get some great instruction, by heading to your local fitness club. Most clubs schedule regular water aerobics classes that you’ll be able to join in on.

Low-Intensity Weight-Lifting

The idea of weight-lifting with fibromyalgia might leave you a little skeptical at first. After all, who can lift heavy weights when they’re dealing with joint and muscle pain constantly.

But the key is to not lift heavy weights. Start with low weights and slowly work your way up as much as your body allows. Some easy strength training can actually have a significant impact on the level of fibromyalgia pain you feel. It promotes the flow of blood to help heal your muscles and strengthens them to deal with pain better in the future.

Yoga

Yoga is a great combination of strength training and stretching, which makes it a great exercise for fibromyalgia.

It strengthens your muscles and helps promote good blood flow, which reduces pain. And yoga practitioners often add a meditation aspect to the exercise, which is known to be beneficial for dealing with fibromyalgia flare-ups.

Finally, yoga is a low-impact exercise that’s easy on your joints, and won’t lead to you over-exerting yourself and triggering a fibro flare up. Ultimately, Yoga is probably the best exercise for people with fibromyalgia.

No matter how you choose to exercise, it’s important to listen to your body and take things slow. Don’t push yourself too hard, or you risk making things worse. And don’t feel like you have to perform at a level you did before your diagnosis, or that you have to train as hard as friends. Work at a pace that is good for you and doesn’t make your fibromyalgia pain worse.

And finally, it’s important that no matter what you choose to do, you do something. Just a little bit of moderate exercise can make a huge difference in the total amount of pain you experience. Your first reaction when you feel fibro pain is to crawl into bed until it goes away, but forcing yourself to exercise will make it go away much faster.

So tell us, do you exercise for fibro pain? Does it make it better or worse? What kind of exercise works for you? Let us know in the comments.

 

Comments

comments

  • Carmen Kelp

    Yeah I recently over did it with weights. I haven’t been back to the gym in over a week now. Gotta try out different machine maybe- treadmill or bike.

  • Cathy

    I was sent to hydrotherapy with a physio in the pool with me & was told my muscles were so wasted I wasn’t ready for light exercise! So where do you start if even the slightest movement hurts. My limbs feel so weak and extremely heavy even lifting the kettle hurts. I definitely believe everyone is different some are in constant head to toe flareup and others get reactive flareups with weather, stress exercise etc 🙁

  • http://www.sparkingsynapse.com/ The Sparking Synapse

    I have a series of stretching exercises which I do before I even get out of bed in the mornings. Then, most days I do fifteen minutes on the iJoy Ride (core strength trainer, which is supposedly like riding a horse, but … not much!) and between fifteen and thirty minutes at walking pace on the treadmill. My ankles tend to give way so it’s easier for me to walk on a reliably flat surface rather than risk tripping and falling. When my legs get tired, I often end up tripping because I don’t pick my feet up properly – not that I’m aware of that, till I trip! My ligaments often let me down. I’ve had two rotator cuff repairs, untold numbers of ankle sprains, many wrist sprains and even finger joint sprains. And this is usually what puts a kink in my exercise routine; I’ll sprain something and have to rest. When I am able to start again, it’s right at the beginning. Very demoralising. But yes, the right exercise does help with fibromyalgia pain.