Unexpected Benefits of Exercise for Fibromyalgia Warriors

Posted: April 3, 2018 8:00:00 AM CDT


Everyone can agree, exercise is beneficial, but do you know how good it is?  There are many ways that exercise can benefit the health of an individual, whether it is simply a walk through the neighborhood or a vigorous high intensity workout. Not only that, exercise has also been shown to improve the health of individuals who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is musculoskeletal pain throughout the body. Some symptoms include widespread pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Currently, fibromyalgia affects more than 5 million Americans, with the majority being women (Hamilton, 2017). Research has shown exercise can benefit individuals with fibromyalgia both physically and mentally.  Exercise can also improve the relationships you have with your family, friends, and peers.

Ten ways exercise can improve your life while battling fibromyalgia:

1. Improves the quality of sleep

Exercise is physically exhausting, which makes the body tired and calls for muscle fiber restoration. On the other hand, sleep is a powerful tool that allows one’s body to restore and recharge, making it possible to regain muscular strength, optimize focus, and become motivated for the upcoming day. Getting the right amount of sleep at night can improve the function of the immune system.  Fibromyalgia warriors already experience symptoms of an autoimmune disease, so exercise is essential to counteract the reduced function of the immune system.

2. Reduces stress

When you are stressed out, your body tenses up.  For individuals with fibromyalgia, the more their body tenses up from stress, the more pain the person experiences. Stress affects the body physically, mentally, and emotionally. Exercise can provide an outlet to let go of stress and frustration. But more importantly, focusing on exercise helps individuals forget about the pain they might be experiencing from fibromyalgia.

3. Boosts self-esteem

Exercise helps build confidence as physical changes become apparent. Maybe it is lifting more, running farther, or finally losing a few extra pounds, one’s self-esteem will rise. The body releases “feel good” hormones when partaking in exercise. Fibromyalgia warriors often lose functioning of everyday activities, but exercise helps to regain participation in these activities.

4. Increases energy

Physical activity calls for a greater oxygen intake to better fuel your body’s cells (Whitbourne, 2012).  Exercise has been shown to increase energy levels, allowing one to accomplish more tasks.  Those who incorporate exercise into their daily routines are more physically and mentally prepared to carry out everyday activities.  

5. Improves breathing

Exercise helps to improve breathing because it requires deeper breaths, taking more air from the lower part of your lungs.  Without physical activity, one’s breathing becomes shallower and can result in other cardiovascular issues. This is a threat to everyone, but especially individuals with fibromyalgia. Exercise strengthens the muscles around one’s lungs and increases breathing capacity, making the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide more efficient (Whitbourne, 2012).  

6. Reduces body fat

It is a known fact, consistent exercise makes a body more fit. Although the numbers on the scale might not be decreasing, exercise will help to decrease body fat while building muscle. It helps to burn the calories put into the body throughout each day. Exercise has been shown to reduce fat and increase the speed of metabolism (Whitbourne, 2012). A common side effect of fibromyalgia is weight gain (O'malley, et al., 2000). For this reason, it is essential for fibromyalgia warriors to exercise and maintain or reduce body fat.

7. Increases flexibility

Certain types of physical activity are designed to increase flexibility. Yoga is one of the most beneficial types of exercise to increase flexibility for individuals with fibromyalgia. When one begins exercising, it may seem impossible to touch their toes. However, after a few weeks of exercising, flexibility of joints should increase and allow for greater range of motion. Eventually, the same client who couldn’t touch their toes may be able to put their palms on the floor past their feet. It helps to make the body leaner by strengthening muscles.

8. Reduces joint pain

If an individual is not active, their joints are not moving.  However, when engaging in physical activity, individuals lose weight, which in turn puts less weight and pressure on their joints. This decreases joint stiffness and increases joint flexibility. All in all, exercise can improve joint range of motion and decrease joint pain.   

9. Boosts memory

Memory is improved with overall health through cognitive functioning. Individuals with fibromyalgia have brain fog and cognitive thinking difficulties. When individuals are active, their brains are more active. As people with fibromyalgia experience regular workouts, it is shown to have improved mood and anxiety levels because of decreased levels of stress hormone (Mannerkorpi & Iversen, 2003).

10. Improves immune system function

When battling an autoimmune disease, the immune system plays a big role in an individual’s overall health. Exercise is proven to improve health, which in turn, boosts immune health. This decreases the likeliness of becoming sick because individuals can fight off the infections and viruses they are prone to getting.  The immune system also helps maintain a healthy response to stress.

If you are an individual with fibromyalgia, the benefits of exercise are clear. Above are just ten ways that regular physical activity will make you live a happier and healthier life. According to the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, to achieve maximal benefits you should perform moderate to vigorous exercise about 150 minutes per week. In these 150 minutes, you should integrate, both, aerobic exercise and strength training (Haskell et al., 2007).  Although it may be hard to find motivation at times, exercise will collectively make you feel better.  It will give you more energy and even add years to your life.

Keywords: exercise, health, body, improves, fibromyalgia

Haskell, W. L., Lee, I. M., Pate, R. R., Powell, K. E., Blair, S. N., Franklin, B. A., ... & Bauman, A. (2007). Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation, 116(9), 1081-1093. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3180616b27

Mannerkorpi, K., & Iversen, M. D. (2003). Physical exercise in fibromyalgia and related syndromes. Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology, 17(4), 629-647. doi:10.1016/S1521-6942(03)00038-X

O'Malley, P. G., Balden, E., Tomkins, G., Santoro, J., Kroenke, K., & Jackson, J. L. (2000).Treatment of fibromyalgia with antidepressants. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 15(9), 659-666. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.2000.06279.x

Whitbourne, SK. (2012, May 12). 19 reasons to exercise. Psychology Today. Retrieved on October 8, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201205/19-reasons-exercise

By: Delanie Vitosh

Category: General

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