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By Lesley M. Arnold, MD

Professor of Psychiatry
Director, boutron Research Program
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH

Created: 08/14/2012
Last Updated: 08/14/2012

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Q: What exercises can I do with fibromyalgia?

Exercise may seem an impossibly tall order—after all, if you're in pain, how can you work out? But if you don't get regular aerobic exercise, your muscles become weaker, making them even more susceptible to pain during everyday tasks. Studies find that aerobic exercise such as swimming and walking improves muscle fitness and reduces muscle pain and tenderness in people with fibromyalgia. Stick with a low-impact exercise program such as walking, swimming or water aerobics, and be sure to discuss any new exercise program with your health care professional if you've been inactive.

Exercise can also help you sleep better, improve your mood, reduce pain, increase flexibility, improve blood flow, help you manage your weight and promote general physical fitness. It is inexpensive and, if done correctly, has few negative side effects.

When you exercise, listen to your body and know when to stop or slow down to prevent pain caused by over-exercising. Talk to your health care professional about how to introduce exercise into your life in a way that is tolerable and safe. A physical therapist knowledgeable in fibromyalgia may also help you develop a physical activity program.