Aerobics and Fibromyalgia
Exercise has proven to be one of the best treatments available for fibromyalgia sufferers. Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that causes numerous symptoms, including widespread pain, intense fatigue, and muscle weakness.
Few effective treatments are available to people with fibromyalgia, contributing to the great frustration caused by the illness. However, new evidence shows that aerobic exercise can actually help to decrease pain symptoms and improve the quality of life that fibromyalgia sufferers lead.
What is Aerobic Exercise?
You’ve probably heard about aerobic exercise but you may not be sure of what it actually entails. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to follow an aerobics video or class to get an aerobic workout. Aerobic exercise refers to any exercise that gets your pulse rate to increase and remain increased for an extended period of time.
Aerobic exercise will get your blood circulating throughout your body and will also increase the rate at which you breathe. Pretty much any activity can be considered an aerobic workout if it gets your body moving. Popular aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, and swimming.
Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise offers numerous benefits to fibromyalgia sufferers, especially when it comes to symptom reduction. Though it may be difficult to start an exercise program depending upon the severity of your pain symptoms, if you stick with it you will definitely begin to notice lots of great benefits:
- Aerobic routines help to strengthen your muscles, decreasing muscle weakness
- You will notice that your muscles feel less stiff, especially in the morning and after physical exertion
- Aerobic training will help to reduce your risk of tiny injuries to your muscles, which could cause long-term discomfort
- Aerobics exercises often improve sleep patterns in fibromyalgia sufferers, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep
- Exercise will actually help to reduce your pain, because it causes your body to release endorphins, which are natural painkillers
- Regular aerobic exercise will increase your fitness level, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other life-threatening illness
Types of Aerobic Activities for Fibromyalgia Sufferers
There are literally dozens of types of aerobic activities, from surfing to dancing, that you can try to help reduce your pain. However, the best aerobic exercises to start off with are low-impact activities. Low impact activities will put less stress on your joints and muscles, thereby causing you less pain and minimizing the risk for trauma to your body. Great low impact aerobics include aerobic dance, walking, swimming, and cycling. You should try to avoid high impact aerobic activities, like running or jumping rope, or you may be at risk for a symptom flare up. Here are three of the most popular activities for people with fibromyalgia:
Walking: Walking is a great way to get your heart rate going and improve muscle strength and overall fitness. It is low impact, meaning that it causes little stress on the joints in your feet and knees, and you can do it pretty much anywhere. If you haven’t been walking much, start off slowly – walk about 5 minutes the first time out. Gradually increase your workout time, adding 1 minute each session, until you are able to walk for 30 minutes.
Cycling: Cycling will help increase your flexibility and muscle strength, improving your range of motion and independence. You can use a stationary bike if you would like to stay indoors, or you can venture outside into the fresh air. Begin this activity by pedaling for only 5 minutes. Gradually increase your time to 30 minutes a session. If you find that your back or neck is hurting from leaning over the handlebars on your bicycle, try a recumbent or upright cycle at your local gym.
Water Aerobics: Water is a great medium for exercise, as it supports your body and cushions your muscles and joints. Even if you can’t swim, you can participate in aqua aerobics. Just wear a flotation device or buoyancy belt in the water if your swimming skills aren’t up to par. Walking back and forth in the water will provide you with a great workout that won’t stress your body, or you can practice the front stroke, back stroke, and breast stroke to condition the muscles in your upper body. Use a kick board to support your arms while you work on the muscles in your legs and back. These aquatic aerobics will leave you feeling more flexible in no time.
Tips For Aerobic Exercise
It is important to introduce aerobic exercise slowly into your exercise routine. If you haven’t been active for a while, speak with your health care advisor before you start any type of exercise program.
You don’t want to injure yourself unnecessarily or exacerbate your symptoms. Here are some tips to keep your aerobic exercise safe and enjoyable:
- Gradually introduce aerobic exercise into your lifestyle. Begin with just five minutes of activity and then slowly build up the length of your workout until you can work out for 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week.
- Always begin any type of exercise with a warm up. Do three to five minutes of stretching or slow walking to get your muscles warmed up and ready for exercise.
- Try different activities until you find one that you really enjoy doing. There is no point in doing an activity you hate – it will only make you feel worse.
- If you hate working out alone, consider signing up for some aerobics programs, which have a designated leader trained in aerobics.
- Expect to feel some pain and stiffness when you first begin to work out, but try to remember that these symptoms will fade as your body becomes accustomed to activity.
- After you exercise, set aside some time to rest and recuperate.