Fibromyalgia (FM) is now considered a central nervous system (CNS) disorder rather than a musculoskeletal condition. FM is managed best from a balance of different approaches including chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue therapies, modalities, exercise, diet, supplementation, sticking to a schedule, taking naps, stress management, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more. Common symptoms of FM include chronic fatigue and mental fog. The focus this month is on exercise and the benefits of exercise as it relates to improving quality of life.
Recent research has been published about the benefits of walking—not just for the FM sufferer, but for EVERYONE! Dr. Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford University doctoral adjunct professor in educational psychology, and Dr. Daniel Schwarz, a professor at Stanford, have published very convincing evidence that walking is not only physically good for the body, but it’s also good for the brain! In fact, they’ve discovered walking actually improves CREATIVITY! Their study found that walking either indoors on a treadmill or outdoors BOTH similarly boosted creative thinking in participants! Hence, for those stranded indoors during climactic weather, whether snow-bound in Wisconsin or heat-bound in Florida, equal benefit can be obtained from indoor walking, even if it’s not as much fun as being outdoors! Though past research has shown that aerobic exercise generally protects long-term cognitive (brain) function, until this study, the benefits of walking when compared with simply sitting had not been considered as important. These authors point out that TWICE AS MANY creative responses were produced by subjects when they walked (whether on a treadmill facing a blank wall vs. walking outdoors in the fresh air) than when they sat from a prolonged period of time. This surprised the authors who thought thinking outdoors would easily be favored. They also found that these creative juices continued to flow when the person sat back down shortly after a walk! Now that we know that walking not only facilitates our bodies but also our brain, are there other exercises that can help the quality of life for the FM sufferer?
Dr. Lesley Arnold, a psychiatrist and FM expert at the University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine in Ohio recommends “a slow but steady pace” when starting a program, making sure that pain and fatigue are under control prior to introducing aerobic exercise. She recommends an initial assessment of the person’s current fitness level and then starts patients at one to two levels below that level, gradually building up stamina to a goal of 20-30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 5-6 days/week. Exercises that emphasize low-impact, high-aerobic output are the best, and water-based exercises really fit that ticket due to the buoyant nature of water. Running in water against or without a resisting current and simply swinging the arms and legs against the resistance of water are extremely effective. A study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy reported improved health-related quality of life in women with FM for those participating in water aerobics. The soothing benefits of warm water is a good starting point, and classes are often group-based, adding social benefits of camaraderie and motivation, which creates a fun experience that participants can look forward to. Since FM is a CNS vs. a muscle condition disorder, another “brain” stimulating exercise includes simply balancing. Depending on the age, agility, and comfort of the person, try adding balance-challenging exercising to the mix. A good program to try can be found here: http://beta.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/slideshow-off-balance-core-moves