Fibromyalgia is more common in women (about 90% of cases). It is a chronic condition wherein the patient has muscular and joint pain. There are also specific tender points that occur in the neck, shoulders, hips and spine. The patient may also have other symptoms, including sleep disturbances, fatigue, depression or irritable bowel syndrome.

Research shows that exercise is beneficial to patients suffering with fibromyalgia. Research published in Annals of Rheumatic Disease (2001; 60: 21-26) found that female fibromyalgia patients undergoing a 21-week program of strength training experienced improvement in their depression and fatigue, but not in their pain. Other research published in Arthritis Care and Research (2002;47:22-28) found that women undergoing a 20 week program that was a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training not only experienced improved strength and endurance, but also had a reduction in pain, stiffness, fatigue and depression.

Many who live with fibromyalgia and other painful conditions often limit their physical activity in the belief that increased activity will cause increased pain. A study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism (January 2005;52(1):296-303), found that patients with either fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrom engaged in less high-intensity physical activities than did sedentary control subjects. This lack of activity correlated with poor physical function.

Researchers found that patients in the study with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or both spent significantly less time in high-level activities compared to those without the conditions. According to the research, people with fibromyalgia believe they have poor physical function and increased pain after activity because they are thinking of intense activity that does indeed cause some increased symptoms. What these patients don’t realize is that it is possible to perform some activities without causing pain.