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People with fibromyalgia often find exercise difficult because of pain, but doctors stress that exercise will not do damage and may in fact help relieve some symptoms of the disease. Doctors generally recommend cardiovascular exercises, stretching and strength training. Exercises may include aqua aerobics, yoga, walking and weight lifting. The best exercise for fibromyalgia comes down to individual choice — if the patient enjoys the exercise, he will keep doing it. Exercises that increase the heart rate, such as jogging, biking, or swimming, should be done at a low intensity, especially at the beginning of a new exercise regimen.
One of the easiest exercises for fibromyalgia is walking. Patients should start with short walks and slowly increase the length of time. The pace in the beginning may be slow, and walking a little, even down the driveway and back, may be all a patient can do for the first few days. Distances can be slowly increased over time to build up cardiovascular strength. Walking with a friend or a dog can be a great motivational tool as well.
Warm water exercise programs are also good for fibromyalgia sufferers. The water cushions the body, and working out in warm water is easier on the system than swimming in a cold pool. Many community centers and health clubs are now offering warm water workouts, sometimes called “aqua-cize,” where instructors lead participants through a series of gentle aerobic exercises. The water provides resistance, and the exercises can be done at an individual pace.
Another essential component of exercises for fibromyalgia relief is daily stretching. A program of stretching can help reduce muscle tightness, increase overall mobility, and improve oxygen flow to the muscles. Stretching can be done anywhere without any special equipment. Yoga and tai chi are good styles of exercise that incorporate stretching and slow movements. Classes can be found at most health clubs or even on DVDs to use at home.
Strength training might seem to produce more muscle pain, but a light program can help the body become stronger overall. The best approach may be to first focus on areas not currently in pain. If leg muscles are the problem, for example, beginning with seated bicep curls might be a good idea. Or if the upper body aches, leg raises to strengthen the quadriceps might be a good choice. Exercises can be done with very light weights or using one’s own body for resistance. Just ten repetitions each day can increase muscle strength and control.
Any program of exercises for fibromyalgia must be, above all, realistic. Doctors generally recommend starting as small as necessary, even if that is only five minutes a day. Fibromyalgia sufferers should go slowly and listen to their bodies, knowing that some days they will not be able to do as much. Establishing a habit of exercise will eventually lead to more energy and less pain.