Why It's Good To Exercise With Fibromyalgia

A few years ago I joined my local gym. I joined in order to feel 'normal' (whatever that is) and to try and get back to some level of fitness I last had in my early twenties.

Being over fifty at the time of joining I thought it wise to visit my GP for a full health check. Surprisingly, I was given a clean bill of health - in spite of the pain for the previous thirteen years, smoking for at least thirty years, and being a lounge lizard for most of the time - and my GP pointed out that gentle exercise might improve my pain.

So, off I went and signed up to the gym. My initial thoughts were to focus on swimming and a bit of gentle cardio work to build up my stamina and get back into the swing of regular exercising, but I soon became fixated on strength training - I thought this would help me with my current job role which involves a lot of lifting.

After a couple of weeks of swimming I took the giant leap upstairs to the weights room. Being a skinny fifty year old bloke I was filled with trepidation at the thought of walking over to the weights and embarrassing myself, so I asked the gym to give me a tour of the equipment and show me how everything worked - which they were pleased to do.

I was shocked to find that I wasn't the only middle aged man in there - there had obviously been an explosion of mid-life crises that year! There were, of course, plenty of posers who spent more time admiring themselves in the floor to ceiling mirrors than actually working out, but in a room of forty people at least fifteen were around my age! Relieved that I wasn't the oldest, I started with a few light weights to focus on upper body strength.  I started light because I didn't yet know how it might affect my fibromyalgia.

Obviously, any form of exercise after a long period of inactivity is going to have an effect on levels of pain - even for those not suffering with fibromyalgia - and I was no exception. For the first two weeks, as I persisted with the weights and swimming, I ached more than ever but, gradually the pain fell back to pre-exercise levels. Rather than stick with this comfortable level, I decided to lift slightly heavier weights - and the pain increased again but then slowly fell back to my usual levels after a couple of weeks. I repeated the process three or four times - each time the pain peaked and then subsided.

Over the course of eight months I began to feel a whole lot better in myself. I gradually reduced my smoking habit - from 25 per day at the outset down to 20 per fortnight now (supplemented with vaping) I went from swimming two lengths per session at the start up to twenty lengths now and the weight lifting has enabled me to continue working in my fast paced job in retail, where I regularly have to lift heavy goods and stack caged pallets.

I haven't lost weight, as that was never my goal, in fact I've increased my body weight by a stone (it's all muscle! lol) but I've dropped my BMI and I feel all the healthier for it.

My initial goal was to actually reduce my pain levels through exercise and, it's fair to say, this hasn't happened. My pain hasn't improved at all but I now find myself with much more energy and strength to get through the daily tasks at work and home. 

Over the past three months my back pain has significantly worsened - though NOT because of exercising - and I haven't been able to attend the gym because of it. I have some pain management sessions lined up for next month, so I'm hoping that these will enable me to resume my exercise regime in due course.

Overall, if you are able to increase your levels of exercise, in any way you can, I would highly recommend that you do. Go for a gentle stroll at first and work up to walking a mile, then two, then three. It might not kill the pain, it certainly won't kill you but it will give you something to focus on and gradually boost your energy levels and well being - in spite of the fibromyalgia.

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