Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, Edgecliff, Marrickville, Bella Vista, Randwick, Pymble, Balmain and Neutral Bay examine the role of exercise in managing Fibromyalgia.


Fibromyalgia is a common, often overlooked musculoskeletal condition defined by chronic widespread pain and tenderness lasting for greater than 3 months. It also manifests itself in emotional distress, fatigue, and sleep disturbance that directly affects regular functions of work, social life, and daily activities.


“Symptoms vary considerably between every individual, and while its range of symptoms are treatable, there is no currently known cure.”


Fibromyalgia affects approximately 2% of the population, but is most commonly diagnosed in women aged 20-50 years old. The cause is still unknown but current evidence points towards the likelihood of a genetic predisposition to developing the disease. Furthermore, its roots seem to be in a dysfunction in sensory processing between the spinal cord and brain, leading to hypersensitivity to touch, and a decreased ability to inhibit pain (Hauser & Fitzcharles, 2018). This dysfunction is commonly referred to as central sensitisation.

How is it managed?

The most effective management has been a holistic approach involving exercise, patient education, cognitive behaviour therapy, and pharmacotherapy. Patient education has shown particularly useful benefits in facilitating behaviour change and improving symptoms, particularly when delivered by an exercise professional during sessions (Sarzi-Puttini et al., 2008). Exercise is an accessible, effective treatment method that has well-documented improvements for individuals with fibromyalgia in the areas of:

  • Muscle strength
  • Functional capacity
  • Sleep quality
  • Cognitive function
  • Symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Pain at tender points


What type of exercise is recommended?

Aerobic, strength and flexibility training all show positive outcomes on multiple symptoms of Fibromyalgia when trained independently, or as a combination. Recent studies from Andrade, Dominski & Siezcowska (2019) and Sosa-Reina et al. (2017), studied 393 and 700 female participants respectively, and  found that a combination therapy of 2, or all 3 of these modalities had the most significant positive outcomes for quality of life, pain reduction, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.


For aerobic exercise, training should begin with low-impact, continuous work, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, in short 5-10 minute periods, 2-3 times a week, and building towards the physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week.


Strength training should begin with low intensity sets of 4-5 repetitions and progress towards 12-15 reps.Stretching exercises should be used before and after sessions to relax the muscles and the mind. Alongside traditional training, evidence has also shown positive effects of water-based exercise, Tai Chi and yoga.


“There is a mode and intensity of exercise for all individuals with Fibromyalgia that can be enjoyable and effective in managing their symptoms”

Designing an exercise program

The most important consideration when designing an exercise program is to increase intensity and volume gradually. Consulting an Exercise Physiologist who understands the variability of Fibromyalgia and can safely, and effectively progress your program is extremely beneficial.

Some other important considerations for exercise in how an Exercise Physiologist may help with are:


  • Education: Exercise Physiologists can provide valuable education on the condition as well as tips for managing symptoms throughout the day
  • Start low and go slow: An individualised program that aims to restore movement and ensure correct technique before building up is most beneficial for managing symptoms and improving treatment outcomes. Don’t rush it, every bit of activity you do is beneficial.
  • Mixed exercise is best: combining an efficient warm-up and cool down, with specific strength and aerobic work is recommended for best treatment outcomes
  • Managing your symptoms and keeping you motivated: Give yourself permission to reduce intensity if symptoms start to increase during activity but keep moving in any way you can.


Check out the video below to look at examples of exercises and tips & tricks to manage your Fibromyalgia:


If you are looking for an individualised exercise program to help manage your Fibromyalgia or another health condition, give Longevity Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista, and Neutral Bay a call on 1300 964 002 to book in a session today!



Written by Nate Sutton


Reference List

Häuser, W., & Fitzcharles, M. A. (2018). Facts and myths pertaining to fibromyalgia. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience20(1), 53.

Sarzi-Puttini, P., Buskila, D., Carrabba, M., Doria, A., & Atzeni, F. (2008, June). Treatment strategy in fibromyalgia syndrome: where are we now?. In Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism(Vol. 37, No. 6, pp. 353-365). WB Saunders.

Sosa-Reina, M. D., Nunez-Nagy, S., Gallego-Izquierdo, T., Pecos-Martín, D., Monserrat, J., & Álvarez-Mon, M. (2017). Effectiveness of therapeutic exercise in fibromyalgia syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. BioMed research international2017.

Andrade, A., Steffens, R. D. A. K., Sieczkowska, S. M., Tartaruga, L. A. P., & Vilarino, G. T. (2019). A systematic review of the effects of strength training in patients with fibromyalgia: clinical outcomes and design considerations. Advances in Rheumatology58.