Maybe it is because it’s January and the beginning of a new year filled with promise and hope and… all those New Year resolutions, that the idea of exercise (or lack of it) works its way into our thoughts. Whatever the reason, it might be a good idea to review a couple of important tips if you have FM and are thinking about starting an exercise regimen.
It important to always warm up your muscles before you exercise by taking a hot bath, shower or sauna. A point that is quite often missed in people with FM beginning an exercise program is that their muscles do not rebound as quickly as someone without FM. FM research studies at the Oregon Health & Sciences University have shown that unlike healthy controls, FM participants do not produce growth hormone during exercise. This means it takes longer for normal exercise induced, muscle micro-trauma to heal in people with FM.
This kind of pain is what anyone who has not used a muscle for a long time experiences. For instance, if a person has not ridden a bicycle for a year, and they decide to jump on and ride 20 miles, they are definitely going to feel that exercise-induced muscle pain. But unlike people with FM, they will quickly heal and the muscle will become stronger without experiencing pain from riding the bicycle after only a couple more times of being on the bike. To help ward off some of that rebound effect for people with FM, taking a hot bath or shower can help make the muscles more supple and less likely to hurt as much after exercise. Even if the exercise regimen is yoga or another stretching program, it is still helpful to warm up with a hot bath or shower.
Never do any repetitive exercise for longer than 20 minutes at a time. This is because scientific studies have shown eccentric movement in repetitive exercise is what heightens the pain presentation for people with FM. If you have not exercised (nor moved) for many months, it is a good idea to begin a routine of only 2-3 minutes duration. Gradually add more minutes until you are exercising a full 20 minutes. Ideally, a person will then slowly build up to exercise 3 times a day for 20 minutes, topping out with an optimum daily total of one hour’s worth of exercise. Note: It only takes a short break-time between one 20-minute segment and the next to gain benefit from this process.
Warm water pool exercises are a good option for people with FM - (look for Arthritis Foundation’s warm water pool exercise classes in your local community including the YMCA and YWCA). Another tip is to use an aqua jogging belt to allow freer movement in the water. The buoyancy of the water helps soften the effects of hard impact exercise – such as walking – from being such a dilemma. Water also offers resistance, automatically making any exercise more effective. Just be certain to start very slowly and add minutes as you progress.