Fibromyalgia and Exercise: What Kind, How Much, How Often?

If you’ve decided to do what you can to reduce your fibromyalgia pain, you’ll want to look at ways to include exercise.

You’ve heard that more physical activity is proven to reduce pain and improve your physical and emotional well-being.  For people who have made exercise a part of self-care, after about a month, it changes from something dreadful, into something to feel proud of, and an important part of your ability to function better in other parts of your life.

The key is to start small, and consider activities and places to exercise that give you the support you need to start and keep working at it.

So, here are some tips to help you begin.

How Much Exercise To Start With

If you’re very reluctant to start, start small. You can benefit from sessions as brief as 10 minutes, a few times a day.  Try this to start:

  • 10 minutes before work
  • 10 minutes at lunch
  • 10 minutes before or after dinner

Here are some of the most common activities that work as exercise for people with fibromyalgia:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Golf
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Water exercise
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Rowing/kayaking

Going to the gym may be your preference, especially if you want to work with a trainer, or a friend.  Having someone to encourage you and to check in with often helps keep your promises to exercise.

If you go to a gym or use a home gym, here are good ways to exercise:

  • Stair climbing
  • Elliptical rower
  • Stationary bicycle
  • Treadmill walking
  • Doing light weight-bearing exercises with 1-2-pound weights

Weight-bearing exercises are particularly good at helping you increase strength and build bone.

Exercises That Address Mind, Body and Spirit

Several traditional forms of exercise blend breathing, stretching, fluid motion and mental focus.  These practices often provide a great benefit for people suffering with pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression.


  • Yoga helps increase flexibility, strength, and brings your attention to deep breathing and relaxation.  The combination of stretching and moving helps lift anxiety, depression, and improve sleep.
  • Qi gong (pronounced “chee goong”) is a traditional Chinese practice of movements that combines balance, slow and quick motion, and breathing.  It helps you increase energy, lessen fatigue and pain, and promote healing
  • Tai Chi is a form of Qi Gong.  It emphasizes meditation, relaxation and passive concentration.

How Often Should You Exercise

It is important to talk with your doctor if you are beginning your exercise program, physical therapy, or weight training.  In most cases, your medical treatment and exercise plan can work together well.

You will want to avoid muscle strains and sprains, so start slowly.  Your doctor can help you find good activities recommended for the particular challenges you face as you start.

  • For example, I may advise patients who want to begin exercising to try:

    2-3 times per week for weight-bearing exercises

  • Resting 48 hours between weight training sessions if training the whole body
  • Do upper body one day and lower body the next day for an alternating training program

Here are some more resources that patients at the Optimal Wellness Center find helpful to make exercising more enjoyable and something you feel good about doing:

It takes commitment to overcome feeling like the pain is too bad and you can’t exercise right now.   You can take heart and find a way to start that works for you.;

If you enjoy this health tip please share it or print it for your use. It comes to you from Dr. Betty Keller, an integrative therapy and fibromyalgia specialist, practicing in Franklin Lakes New Jersey at the Optimal Wellness Center.