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By Aimee Alumbaugh, RN
The thought of starting an exercise program when you have constant pain and exhaustion can be daunting; however, for people with fibromyalgia, it can be the answer to regaining a somewhat normal life. Below are some tips to help you get started and to improve your chances of success. As with any exercise program, get your doctor’s OK before you begin.
- Pick an activity that you enjoy (i.e. walking, biking or swimming) and exercise with a friend. Remember, it’s not a competition. Be careful not to do too much too soon; overextending yourself can trigger pain.
- Think positively about your program. A negative attitude will likely lead to failure.
- If you experience any unpleasant symptoms during exercise, such as chest pain or tightness, severe shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting or nausea, stop the exercise and contact your physician or 911 if necessary.
- Have a goal, put it in writing and refer to it often. Your goal may be to walk for 10 minutes without having to go to bed afterwards because you hurt too much or feel like you are going to collapse from exhaustion. Keep in mind that a goal is something to work toward; you will have to work up to it. Keeping a journal of your progress will show you what is working and what needs improvement.
- Listen to your body. During an exercise, go around the pain; you do not have to work through it. You may just need to reposition yourself or change the way you are doing the exercise. If you are exercising at a gym, speak with one of the employees. You may need to make a simple adjustment to the equipment. Stay within your comfort zone and do not overdo it.
- Start small. Because of your fibromyalgia symptoms, you will probably be able to do significantly less than someone else your age. That’s OK. When it comes time to increase the duration or intensity of the exercise, and that time will come, you should only do so by 1-2%. This may sound like a small amount but, again, you don’t want to overdo it. Limit yourself to 6-8 repetitions at a time to avoid overuse injuries. Research has shown that three 10-minute bouts of cardiovascular exercise are just as beneficial as a single 30-minute session of exercise.
- Remember to breathe. Holding your breath while exercising can increase your blood pressure and cause muscle cramping. Being mindful of your breathing will actually help you perform better while exercising and you will find that it will carry over into the rest of your day.
Exercise produces natural pain killers and mood-enhancing endorphins—the more you exercise the more you produce. If you exercise with a buddy, you will produce even more and feel even better. Exercise also decreases the amount of the stress and the depression-producing hormone cortisol.
So set a goal, grab a buddy and start slowly. In no time, you will be happy you did. As Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.”
Aimee Alumbaugh, RN, BSN, CMBPC is a registered nurse, personal trainer, and a certified MoveBeyondPain clinician.
I did my WW weigh-in this morning and was actually surprised. I thought I had gained a ton because I did an absolutely HORRIBLE job of staying on plan. Didn’t track points or anything. So I have to say that I was shocked to see that I only gained .4 lbs. Still it has me moving backwards instead of forward but I hopped back on the horse today. I work up early (thanks to Abby sleeping like a rock last night–Thank you Lord!) and worked out. I can hardly move but I’ll take it.