Fibromyalgia causes chronic body pain. The constant muscle and tissue tenderness can also lead to sleep problems. Shooting pains that may be quite severe originate from parts of your body known as “tender points.” The painful areas may include your:

  • neck
  • back
  • elbows
  • knees

Although fibromyalgia can make exercise difficult, it’s important to be as active as you can. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, regular exercise is one of the most useful treatments for fibromyalgia.

Research has repeatedly shown that regular aerobic exercise improves pain, function, and overall quality of life in people with fibromyalgia.

Many doctors recommend gentle aerobic exercise as the first line of treatment for fibromyalgia. This is before any type of medication is considered. Even if your doctor prescribes medication for your condition, it’s important to be active.

In one study of more than 400 women, less time spent sedentary and more light physical activity was associated with less pain, fatigue, and overall impact of the disease.

If it’s too painful or you’re too tired to exercise, you can begin with walking, moving in a swimming pool, or other gentle activities. If you do this regularly, you can build your strength and endurance over time.

A physical therapist can help you develop a home exercise program, but first, why not try simply walking? The simplest form of activity is often the best.

You can do it anywhere and all you need is a decent pair of shoes. Start with a short, easy walk and build up to walking for longer periods or a brisk pace. A good goal, according to the Mayo Clinic, is to work up to at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity three times per week.

Warm water and light exercise make for a soothing combination to help ease the pain of fibromyalgia.

Research on women between the ages of 18 and 50, published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, showed that exercise in a pool was better than gym-based aerobic exercise or home-based stretching and strengthening exercise in relieving fibromyalgia symptoms.

You don’t have to break out in a sweat in order for exercise to be useful. For example, try:

  • gentle stretching
  • relaxation exercises
  • maintaining good posture

Be careful not to overdo it. It’s best to stretch stiff muscles after you’ve done some light aerobic exercise to warm up. This will help you avoid injury. Here are a few other tips for healthy stretching:

  • Move gently.
  • Never stretch to the point of pain.
  • Hold light stretches for up to a minute to get the best benefit.

Strength training can significantly improve the quality of life for people with fibromyalgia, according to a 2018 review of 22 studies. Strength training includes resistance exercises and weight lifting. It’s important to increase intensity slowly and use light weights.

Start as low as 1 to 3 pounds. Regular strength training can result in a significant reduction in:

  • pain
  • fatigue
  • tender points
  • depression
  • anxiety

All types of physical activity count. Gardening, vacuuming, or scrubbing might not reduce pain, but daily activities like these have been shown to reduce fatigue and improve physical function and quality of life.

Findings from a study of almost 200 women, ages 20 to 70, showed that those who did the least amount of everyday physical activity had poorer functioning and greater fatigue than those who were more physically active in their day-to-day lives.

To get the benefits of physical activity, it's important to stick with it. Build up gradually to a regular habit of activity. It’s likely that your symptoms will improve.

If you need help getting started, ask your doctor or physical therapist to recommend exercises to do at home. Pace yourself to avoid overdoing it when you feel good. Take it down a notch when you feel a fibro flare. Listen to your body and find a healthy balance.