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A healthy diet and regular exercise are essential to anyone who wants to feel well. For someone with fibromyalgia, those two things play a critical role in helping to reduce pain, increase energy and improve quality of life.
Studies have shown that walking, strength training, stretching exercises and swimming in a heated pool can alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms. Regular exercise appears to enhance the body's response to stress, which often triggers symptoms. It also improves endocrine function to help the body better process pain and regulate sleep patterns.
Here are the keys to an effective exercise program:
- Start slowly. Begin with gentle stretching, walking, bicycling or swimming.
- Create a routine. Exercise should be a regular part of your life. Schedule time for it on your weekly calendar and take advantage of small opportunities to exercise throughout your day, such as using the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Have fun with it. Yoga, Pilates, strength training, tai chi, bicycling, walking, jogging, low-impact aerobics or swimming all are recommended. Mix it up so you won't get bored.
While exercise is one of the most proven ways to battle fibromyalgia, the jury is still out on the issue of nutrition. A balanced diet can help increase your energy level and reduce your risk of other health problems, but more research is needed before experts can identify if specific foods affect the risk of flare-ups. Many people with fibromyalgia, however, have reported a reduction in symptoms by avoiding certain things, such as caffeine and alcohol. Experiment by cutting foods from your diet that seem to intensify your symptoms. To maintain your health, though, make sure your diet remains well-balanced.
Improving your diet can make you healthier and may even reduce your pain and fatigue. Add that to a regular exercise regimen and you may be on the road to more pain-free days.
Reviewed by Steven King, M.D.