Can Exercise help Fibromyalgia?

Upon my travels as a student exercise physiologist participating in a variety of practicum placements, I have come across a variety of conditions however one took my interest. Below is an article explaining fibromyalgia and the benefits of exercise.

 What is Fibromyalgia?

 Fibromyalgia is a complex condition and presents with a variety of chronic symptoms such as widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is characterised by the modification of the central nervous system, altering the input of sensation to be harmful. These changes cause the intensity of a non-painful sensation to be amplified and felt to be painful.

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown and unfortunately there is no cure however disease management is the standard treatment. Some clients with fibromyalgia believe exercise exacerbates their symptoms however this is not the case.

Signs and Symptoms and Presentation

Many individuals who experience fibromyalgia report a reduction in the ability to complete daily tasks such as hanging clothes, walking stairs and carrying objects. Physical performance is reduced due to the lack of strength in the upper and lower extremities as well as aerobic fitness. These decrements negatively impact one’s employment status, mental health and social interactions. Common symptoms are fatigue, weakness, soreness and psychological stress such as depression and anxiety.

 How can exercise help?

 The initial goal for individuals with fibromyalgia is to gain adherence and consistency to complete their exercises to assist in improving their sleep, mood and the ability to complete their activities of daily living (ADLs).

Gradual exercise programs are designed to assist in managing fatigue and pain and increasing the tolerance to activity. A gradual program will decrease the likelihood of flare ups and continue to improve the client’s fitness levels. Increasing tolerance to activity will allow individuals to enhance their independence and ability to complete their ADLs.

Evidence shows that exercise modalities such as aerobic and hydrotherapy can have a positive impact on relieving symptoms. Hydrotherapy can have a positive impact on stiffness, alleviate pain and improve aerobic capacity due to the warm water. Aerobic exercise such as prolonged walking, cycling and hydrotherapy has an array of benefits on the symptoms of fibromyalgia as well as increasing cardiovascular fitness. Aerobic exercise improves one’s functional capacity to complete ADLs and independence.

Stretching exercises promote movement at the joints gaining range of motion and body awareness. Clients experiencing fibromyalgia often have an increase in pain sensation therefore stretches are an important baseline to introduce into a daily routine. Strength training improves muscular endurance and strength prolonging one’s time to fatigue by replicating functional movements performed in everyday activities.

Structured physical activity has the potential to improve fibromyalgia and reduce symptoms, contact Absolute Balance to book a consult with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to assist you today! Phone on 9244 5580 or via email on


Danica Falcone 

Exercise Physiologist (Student)


Mannerkorpi, K. (2005). Exercise in fibromyalgia. Current Opinion in Rheumatology, 17(2), pp.190-194.

Segura-Jiménez, V., Soriano-Maldonado, A., Estévez-López, F., Álvarez-Gallardo, I., Delgado-Fernández, M., Ruiz, J. and Aparicio, V. (2016). Independent and joint associations of physical activity and fitness with fibromyalgia symptoms and severity: The al-Ándalus project. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(15), pp.1565-1574.