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Agape Physical Therapy

The Effects of Exercise on Fibromyalgia

Do you have fibromyalgia?

If anyone has fibromyalgia, they might already know it. Although it can be a difficult condition to diagnose, a person who has fibromyalgia will most likely know they are experiencing symptoms that are beyond a ‘normal’ healthy state of being. This disease is characterized by widespread muscle pain and tenderness in specific regions of the body and/or all around the body. There are various signs and symptoms for this condition so it is recommended if suspected of having fibromyalgia and due to the variety of signs and symptoms, to obtain a medical diagnosis.

How can exercise help?

Exercise is perceived as one of the most natural activities for the body. Our bodies are built for locomotion which needs a muscular system to operate. Since fibromyalgia is characterized as widespread muscle pain, one would suspect that body motion in any form would only exacerbate this already persisting pain. However, exercise is essential in improving blood circulation around the body and reducing the effects of fibromyalgia. But if muscle locomotion itself causes pain, how do you exercise without pain?

With any set of symptoms of fibromyalgia present, exercise should be introduced slowly and gradually. Trying to jump into an exercise program without taking little steps to acclimate the body can actually worsen the condition. Easing into exercise allows the body to grow accustomed to physical movement and helping prevent sudden flares of pain associated with fibromyalgia. Performing aerobic exercise (cardio) and muscular strength training can help alleviate symptoms. Individuals who take the gradual approach, with exercise intensity being increased very lightly, find the most success when adhering to an exercise program [2].

An important aspect to consider when planning an exercise program is having a healthy balance between aerobic exercises and muscular strength training [1]. This will provide the most holistic approach to pursuing the benefits associated with exercise and alleviating the symptoms of fibromyalgia

Aquatic Exercise

underwaterjets.jpgExercising underwater provides the body an environment with reduced gravity pressure on the joints and muscle tissue lessening the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

One way to take advantage of aquatic exercise is utilizing underwater treadmills. These provide individuals a chance to work on their cardiovascular health while in an aquatic environment. Although not everyone with fibromyalgia may benefit from aquatic exercise, in many cases it has been shown to alleviate symptoms of this chronic condition.

At Agape Physical Therapy we have three underwater treadmills at the Brockport, Webster, and Gates locations. This provides patients with fibromyalgia a chance to work on their cardiovascular health pain-free if given the right circumstances.

Benefits of Exercise

A person diagnosed with fibromyalgia can lessen symptoms of the disease by improving cardiovascular health and increasing overall muscular strength. The most improvement can be seen when combining the two in a healthy, holistic manner that takes into account all components of fitness [1]. Aerobic exercise has been seen to decrease pain intensity and fatigue [1] most likely due to the improvements in blood circulation. Strength training programs also reduce to effects of fibromyalgia by increasing muscle strength and physical ability; combining both forms of exercise leads to gaining the benefits of each. When considering the possible health benefits of any form of exercise, individuals with fibromyalgia are encouraged to start slowly by incorporating light intensity exercise program to not only improve their physical fitness but to improve their quality of life.


Individuals can even train under resistance using underwater weights and work on cardiovascular health using the underwater treadmill.


The AquaJet is our newest piece of technology in advanced underwater treadmills. Utilizing jet current, resistance can be placed on the body moving underwater.


1. Hawkins, R. A., MD. (September 2013). Fibromyalgia: A Clinical Update. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association,113(09), 680-689. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2013.034
2. Busch, A. J., Webber, S. C., Brachaniec, M., Bidonde, J., Bello-Haas, V. D., Danyliw, A. D., ... Schachter, C. L. (2011).
3. Davis, J. L. (n.d.). Water Exercise for Fibromyalgia: Easing Deep Muscle Pain. Retrieved July 13, 2017
Justus Nowak
Exercise Science Intern