Many new fibromyalgia patients tell me; “My doctor told me to exercise, but every time I go to the gym or work out at home I either wind up so exhausted I can’t move for days, or in so much pain I NEVER want to think about exercise again!”
It’s true that consistent aerobic exercise is a critically necessary part of your recovery from fibromyalgia. Consistent aerobic exercise increases energy, decreases pain (often as well or better than pain medications), improves sleep and mood, and can even improve cognitive function. In fact, most of us fibromyalgia specialists know that if our patients do not exercise they will not feel better, no matter what other therapies they are on.
Many doctors recommend fibromyalgia patients follow a “graduated exercise program” where they follow a prescribed exercise regimen and increase the amount they exercise every week even if they are exhausted and sore. Instead I have found by adapting the concept of the “energy envelope” coined by Leonard Jason PhD et al (see link below) to my fibromyalgia patients I can often get them exercising and feeling better. Dr. Peter Rowe recommends this approach for pediatric chronic fatigue patients, but I have found it works well for kids and adults with fibromyalgia.
Here’s how to do it: you always need to stay within the boundaries of your energy level–your “envelope.” If you are very symptomatic then your energy envelop is quite thin. You need to figure out how much exercise you CAN do without bursting through the envelope and crashing. So you walk for 5 minutes every other day for the first week. By consistently doing the exercise that does not stress your body, you stay within the envelope and actually expand it so over time you can walk for 6 minutes then 7 minutes, then 8 minutes in a session–the goal being to get at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 4 times a week. Your energy envelope has then expanded so that has lots of room inside! You slowly and gently get in shape by adding about a minute of time to your routine every week.
You can read the article here:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3596172/
Do you want to get all the benefits of exercise? Start by doing what you can do on a regular basis (4 times a week) and then slowly add a bit more time every week. Swim, walk, bike–your choice. Give yourself the benefits of exercise PLUS enjoy active time with family and friends. See you on the trail!