What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. People with fibromyalgia may experience a number of symptoms, including increased sensitivity to pain, extreme tiredness (fatigue), muscle stiffness and difficulty sleeping.

Why is physical activity important for fibromyalgia?

Although there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, there are treatments available to help relieve some of the symptoms and make the condition easier to live with. One of the most effective forms of treatment is physical activity. There are many benefits to exercising with fibromyalgia, including:

  • It gives you energy and helps to reduce feelings of fatigue
  • It benefits your mind as well as your body – exercise releases endorphins, which helps to reduce your stress levels and improve your mood
  • It can reduce muscle stiffness and pain
  • It helps to improve your sleep patterns and general quality of sleep
  • It helps to improve your overall quality of life

How much physical activity should you be doing?

If you're looking to become more active and manage your fibromyalgia symptoms, you should aim to take part in the recommended amount of physical activity for your age group, as outlined in the UK Chief Medical Officer's Physical Activity Guidelines.

For adults aged 19 and over, the recommended amount is at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. Where possible, this should be a combination of cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and balance exercises. These could include:

  • Cardiovascular activities - brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing
  • Strength activities - resistance training, Yoga, Nordic Walking, carrying heavy shopping, heavy gardening
  • Balance/mobility - Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, body balance classes

If you have fibromyalgia, it's important to pace yourself. As extreme tiredness (fatigue) and pain are two of the main symptoms of fibromyalgia, you may find that on some days, you're not able to exercise as much as you'd like. It's important that you balance periods of activity with periods of rest, and that you don't overdo it or push yourself beyond your limits. Listen to your body and rest whenever you need to. Over time, you can gradually increase your periods of activity.

Helpful tips for keeping active with fibromyalgia

  • Start gently and build up gradually. If you are new to activity build up slowly over 3-6 months
  • There may be activities you need to avoid or be careful with. There may also be some weeks when you have to do less, for example when you're feeling extremely fatigued. It is important not to suddenly start intense exercise that you are not used to
  • Try to be active everyday - do a little even when you're tired
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend sitting or lying down
  • Pace activity and rest when you need to - make the most of your better days
  • Being active in a group or class can give you social support and help keep you motivated. You may be able to find an exercise class that is especially tailored to those with fibromyalgia or similar conditions

For more information about physical activity and fibromyalgia, visit the NHS website.