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Exercising with Fibromyalgia

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Hula Hoop Workouts Ahead

Caution: Hula Hoopers at Play

Dear my fave twins: My goal is to get more fit. I want to build muscle and increase flexibility while being careful of my body because I have fibromyalgia. How do I pick which types of exercise will meet my goals, besides just alternating through them all? What that looks like for me right now is a brand-new-to-me yoga-pilates class, low-moderate intensity walks when it’s nice enough to do so, my exercise bike, and then at-home yoga, stretching, small dumbbells, and body weight exercises like crunches. I might want to try hula hooping or other classes at the gym where yoga is.  Kristine from Vancouver, WA

Kymberly: Looking at what research says about exercise and fibromyalgia, we almost couldn’t have put it better than you. Almost… cuz’ we will say it even spiffier and with more chutzpah experience.

Mind/Body Modes Help Alleviate Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Walking on a Garden Path

Take a Meditative Stroll

In short, the variety of exercise modes you are self-selecting is just about spot on for someone with your condition and fitness goals. Pilates and mind-body activities (such as yoga, Tai chi, qigong, and meditation) are particularly good for minimizing fibromyalgia pain. Your moderate intensity walks, hula hooping, and biking will meet your cardio need; the body and free weight workouts will target your muscle strength and endurance; while the stretching and yoga will help your flexibility. You have covered the three key categories for overall fitness with these activities. As long as you include something from each category at least twice a week you are in the effective and safe zone. Sounds like baseball all of a sudden. Yooooouuuuu’re SAFE!

Core Moves Without a Lot of Flexion Beat Out Crunches

Alexandra: I would suggest some other core exercise instead of the crunches. Since you want to be more fit (you didn’t mention wanting a certain “look” to the abs), you will gain more strength with other choices. For example, I refer you to two no-crunch posts we did (with video) that won’t put strain on your neck or head: No Head or Neck Strain I and No Head or Neck Strain II.  Click on both these videos and the links we added for more on the relationship between fibromyalgia, pain reduction, and exercise.

Low to Moderate Intensity is Best

You are smart to take on low to moderate intensity, as the Mayo Clinic has found that “short bouts of physical activity throughout the day may prove beneficial for fibromyalgia sufferers.” So when you are planning your workouts, you might consider sprinkling them throughout the day rather than doing everything at once. I wonder if knitting after some of your harder workouts would be a clever way to minimize any muscle/ ligament/ tendon pain simply by virtue of distracting you? That would be an interesting study, especially as research has already proven that people report lower levels of pain when their minds are elsewhere (I know I fantasized about killing my husband when I was in labor, heh heh heh).

Fitness Classes May Help More than Home Workouts

yoga pose at the beach

Yoga, then arm raises, then swimming. Alternate your workouts.

Kymberly: Fibromyalgia exercisers do well to achieve an intensity level where they are short of breath while still able to speak in short phrases. As for whether you should alternate between the types of workouts you mention, we say “absolutely!” If you are someone who likes variety, then you have the right mix for you. If you try a new activity such as hula hooping (is that even a verb? OK, let’s make it so) and you start to feel pain or fatigue related to your fibromyalgia, check with your medical pro, take a break from that mode, and go back to what did work for you. Your idea to attend classes is also particularly good as a limited study on the effects of Pilates on fibromyalgia suggested that exercise participants might adhere to their program under instructor supervision better than those working out at home. Group classes rule!

Alexandra and Kymberly take HIIT at FitSocial with Chris Freytag

Exercising with Fibro-My-Sistuh

Lastly, our all time favorite advice when it comes to what kind of exercise is best–whether directed to someone with fibromyalgia or not–is to do the types of workouts you will actually do. The more kinds you like, the better!

Pedestrian and Garden Path Photos courtesy of 

Other photos courtesy of Kymberly

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About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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11 Responses to Exercising with Fibromyalgia

  1. Aqiyl Aniys November 4, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    Nice article Kymberly. It looks like Kristine pretty much got it covered, and I am glad she is not shying away from exercising because she has fibromyalgia. Way to go Kristine!
    Aqiyl Aniys recently posted..How To Detox Your BodyMy Profile

    • KymberlyFunFit November 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

      Thank you Aqiyl. Isn’t it interesting that just 10 years ago people with MS and fibromyalgia were advised to be sedentary. Now we know that movement is possible and even helpful for them!
      KymberlyFunFit recently posted..Stress, Relaxation, Bread & ExerciseMy Profile

  2. Jody - Fit at 55 November 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    I love when you write posts to help people with issues – no matter what the issue. Even people without the prob but maybe they have other things that inhibit them can learn & use your advice!!!

    I have a friend with lots of issues & has successfully worked thru it! :)
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted..Gratitude Monday, Breathing & Stuff..My Profile

  3. Kristine November 4, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    yay, that’s me! and dude, I kinda sound like a diverse exercise rockstar, which is such a unique feeling for me! it’s certainly been a long road to get to this place – last year at this time, I was almost completely bedbound. and now, I’m loving that I can make my baby steps towards exercise just a little bigger! thanks for the super advice, both of you.

    I’ll check out the non-crunch vids, I’m not so worried about the look of my tummy but more that this was one floor exercise that I knew how to do LOL! and thanks for popping the knitting tip in the middle here, my favorite hobby definitely is how I re-energize between everything I do. it puts my brain in this ZEN state by the meditative repetition of stitches (there have been studies on this, one of my fav authors has a talk about it). And when I’m working on something easy, it goes with me on my walks and on the exercise bike.

    it’s crazy, back in the day, my doctor said I needed concerted stints of exercise to make it “count”. my newest doctor blew my mind telling me that 10 minute bursts are super helpful too, just like you are saying. that’s just awesome for someone with limited energy, the me-of-one-year-ago would have been more likely to jump on the exercise bike for 5 minutes had she known that ;) for people in similar spots, Roni’s ( new post series of What You Can, When You Can (on twitter as #wycwyc ) is also perfect for someone with limited mobility like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. :)

    Thanks again!
    Kristine recently posted..instagram: bowl of cole slaw with almond oil, almond cherry balsamic, cranberries, pepitss, and yesterday’s grilled chicken. yum and easy ! #watchmedothisMy Profile

    • KymberlyFunFit November 5, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      GIrrrrl – you have spunk and energy galore. And thanks for the arrow pointing to Roni’s post. I will take a look. Sounds like an adage we first heard 20 years ago at an IDEA Convention (for fitness professionals): Exercise as hard as you can, as long as you can, as often as you can. Allows for individual goals and abilities and is spot on advice still good today.
      KymberlyFunFit recently posted..Living Now Giveaway: Allergy-Friendly Grains & FloursMy Profile

  4. Tamara November 4, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Such a great and informed post about a condition that many people have never heard of before. Love that you included knitting in Kristine’s post-workout recovery plan!
    Tamara recently posted..Ultimate Booty Workouts Giveaway on GoodReads | Enter to winMy Profile

  5. Cathy Chester November 5, 2013 at 1:55 am #

    Good for you for this important post. Exercising while having an illness is important.

    But, wait! What am I saying? I haven’t been exercising. My MS has kicked itself up as of late. I have a frozen shoulder so my bicycle sat suspending in our garage all summer on its hooks, and I also can’t do my yoga – since before the summer. I need help, too!

    Great blog helping so many people. You are endlessly informative.
    Cathy Chester recently posted..Changing The Face Of Disability Into The Face Of Ability And How Hollywood Helped Us Change ItMy Profile

  6. KymberlyFunFit November 5, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    Hey, are you holding back on a secret exercise question answered our Fun and Fit way? Send it in; we might even get your bike from the hooks if you send a question we know the answer to.
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted..Reducing Obesity – What Does and Doesn’t WorkMy Profile

  7. Hoggard November 6, 2013 at 3:41 am #

    Hello Kymberly, you’re doing great work indeed. Keeping up the body fitness through exercising with fibromyalgia is needed great courage and you’re getting such courage perfectly. I would say this post is an inspiring one for those who are having such pain within their body but yet they ready to do exercising and keep their body fit.
    Hoggard recently posted..Which is better Tumblr or Blogger?My Profile

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