Exercise can benefit fibromyalgia patients


Exercise can benefit fibromyalgia patients


(Here is a question and answer from Coop's Ultra Fit director, John DeFendis)
Q: My wife desperately wants to lose weight and be healthier but she suffers from a condition called fibromyalgia. Do you know anything about this condition, and is there any way that she will still be able to exercise and lose the weight with all of the pain and symptoms from it? — Larry (a concerned husband)
A: I have really good news for you. We have successfully worked with and helped hundreds of women with fibromyalgia, and we can help your wife also. There are also many studies that show the benefits of exercise and proper nutrition with fibromyalgia patients.
An exercise program that incorporates strength training and stretching can improve daily function and alleviate symptoms in women with fibromyalgia. These benefits appear to be enhanced when exercise is combined with education about managing the disease.
Patients with fibromyalgia experience chronic pain throughout their bodies for at least three months, along with specific sites of tenderness.
Daniel S. Rooks, Sc.D., from Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and now with Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc., Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues recruited 207 women taking medication for fibromyalgia.
For 16 weeks, the women were randomly assigned to four groups: 51 performed aerobic and flexibility exercises only; 51 added in strength training; 50 received a self-help course on managing fibromyalgia; and 55 participated in all the exercises and the education course. The exercise groups met twice weekly, gradually increasing the length and intensity of their workouts, with instructions to perform a third day of exercise on their own.
A total of 135 women completed the study and underwent a six-month follow-up assessment. As measured by two self-assessment questionnaires and one performance test, women who participated in all forms of exercise improved their physical function, an effect that was larger in the combined education and exercise group. “Social function, mental health, fatigue, depression and self-efficacy also improved,” the authors write. “The beneficial effect on physical function of exercise alone and in combination with education persisted at six months.”
“The present study suggests that progressive walking, simple strength training movements and stretching activities are effective at improving physical, emotional and social function ... in women with fibromyalgia who are being actively treated with medication,” the authors write. “The findings suggested the need for inclusion of appropriate exercise and patient education in the treatment of individuals with fibromyalgia.”
Journal reference: Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(20):2192-2200. This research was supported by an Arthritis Foundation Investigator Award (Dr. Rooks) and National Institutes of Health grants.
If you have fibromyalgia, the idea of any type of exercise may make you want to cringe or dismiss the possibility. Although some exercise may seem painful, especially on those tender muscles and joints, it is actually one of the most beneficial treatments for fibromyalgia symptoms. Exercise will actually help lessen your pain, strengthen your muscles, and make each day seem a little bit easier. Strength training in particular has been one of the most beneficial treatments for fibromyalgia sufferers.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training is a type of exercise that involves using your muscles to lift extra pounds. Over time, you lift increased amounts of weight in order to develop your strength, muscle and endurance. Strength training is typically done with free weights (like barbells and dumbbells) or on strength training equipment designed to target specific areas of the body.
Strength training targets all the major areas of the body, including the arms, legs, abdominals, back, shoulders, and chest. There are specific strength training programs and exercises designed to work out particular muscles in these body parts. A qualified professional Ultra Fit trainer can design a calculated and progressive program that will change your life and make you look and feel like a different person.
Strength Training vs Weight Training
When you first think about strength training, you might envision big buff bodybuilders or muscular women. This is not the type of strength training that is advised for people with fibromyalgia. Instead, strength training for fibromyalgia sufferers is focused on developing increased strength, endurance, and muscle tone throughout the body – not those huge, bulging muscles. Fibromyalgia sufferers who wish to strength train should not be concerned with the amount of weight they can lift, but rather that they lift small amounts of weight regularly and correctly.
     Strength training is highly recommended for fibromyalgia sufferers because of the wide variety of benefits it can offer. A professionally designed and implemented regimen of strength training can help reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. The benefits of strength training also include:
  • Strength training helps to reduce muscle pain and stiffness by encouraging daily use of all body parts and more blood flow throughout the body.
  •  Strength Training also helps to improve your overall fitness level, increasing your energy and reducing your fatigue.
  • Strength training has been shown to improve sleep habits, allowing you to fall asleep faster and remain in deep sleep longer.
  •  Strength Training can help to improve your mood and alleviate symptoms of depression.
  • Strength training can also provide a number of other important benefits, like increasing your metabolism for fat loss and reducing your risk of osteoporosis.


The good thing about strength training is that it is safe and effective for practically anyone if it is implemented by a professional and performed correctly. Even if you are de-conditioned, you can still begin a moderate strength training program and receive fantastic benefits. Strength training is most beneficial when balanced out with a program for flexibility. (stretching regimen) However, strength training on its own will also help to reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

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