Exercise has been shown to relieve many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, which include body pain, fatigue, sleep disruption, headaches, problems with memory and concentration, mood disturbances and irritable bowel syndrome. 

But many with fibromyalgia find it difficult or impossible to exercise because they are in such pain and their physical abilities can be so limited.

“The nature of the disease with the pain and fatigue makes it difficult to stick to a traditional program. So start with this and some may be able to transition to traditional exercise, but to those who can’t, this does seem to be an alternative that is beneficial,” Fontaine says.

Theodore Fields, MD, is a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. He says this study is interesting because a combination of fatigue, pain or muscle strain often makes it difficult for fibromyalgia patients to consistently exercise and he says it will help patients to learn there could be more manageable options for them.

“If increasing lifestyle physical activity is successful in improving the pain and perceived physical function in fibromyalgia patients, then it is something we could prescribe and which patients are likely to follow up with,” Dr. Fields says.

Dr. Fields says this research is of interest, but he says this kind of study does have limitations.

“Patients may overestimate their amount and intensity of activity if it is not observed,” Dr. Fields says. “However, if the results of this pilot questionnaire study hold up in further studies, if patients repeatedly describe decreased pain and increased function, this is important.”