Living with Fibromyalgia

29 +1 Low Impact Activities for Fibro Warriors

I know what you’re thinking. Exercising is nearly impossible some days when you suffer from fibromyalgia. Trust me, I get it. But here is the deal: if we stop moving altogether, pretty soon we won’t be able to move at all. So while it sounds counterintuitive, the best thing you can do for your body is to keep it moving.

Of course, you probably should not start an intense kickboxing class or run a marathon the first time you put on your running shoes. That would most likely not be safe. And it probably would not end well.

For the sake of honesty, I am 5’4” and pushing 300 lbs. Not exactly your typical swimsuit mode… But now that you know that about me, I hope you see I know what it is like to not be able to do everything physical you would like to do.

We all have our limitations. Of course, I’m not overweight because of fibromyalgia alone, but I feel it has played a huge role in my inactivity levels.

With that said, I’m not as rigorous as I would like when it comes to moving my body. I know I should not stay sedentary for prolonged periods of time, and at the same time, I struggle with finding physical activity that will allow me to move my body without making my fibromyalgia symptoms worse.

I’ve done some research to see specifically what I could do to keep moving in a safe and comfortable way, despite my fibromyalgia symptoms.

Low impact exercise is usually contrasted with high impact exercise. The name is pretty self explanatory but I have to say that I was actually a bit off in my reasoning.

While it makes sense that low impact exercise is not as tough on the joints as high impact exercise, I was surprised to see that for exercise to be considered low impact, one foot needs to stay in contact with the ground at all time. And you know what? The name makes even more sense now!

So what is concretely considered low impact exercise? Activities such as walking, cycling, stair climbing, elliptical, most nautical sports, climbing, yoga, lunges, weight training, dancing and aerobics are all under the low impact exercise category.

Is there any real benefit to low impact exercising, you might ask. There absolutely are tremendous advantages to incorporating low impact movement to your daily routine! Low impact does not mean low intensity!

In fact, many low impact routines can be quite exerting. As Fibro Warriors, it is primordial that we listen attentively to our bodies so that we don’t overdo it, as it can have devastating consequences for days on end.

Now, let me reiterate that I am far from being an athlete, and most days I don’t even feel like getting out of bed, let alone grab my walking shoes.

So I know it’s a lot easier to talk and think about exercise than actually doing it. But let me also say that the days I push myself to do some sort of physical activity, I feel physically and mentally a ton better. In the end, it’s definitely worth it.

Ok, enough chit-chat! Let me present to you the 29 +1 low impact exercises you could try to help with your fibromyalgia symptoms.

walking for fibromyalgia

1- These boots are made for walking!

The most natural form of low impact exercise is definitely walking. If you are fortunate enough to not be wheelchair bound, this is an everyday activity a lot of us underestimate. After all, just like we don’t think twice about breathing, we don’t think twice about waking.

It is a very healthy form of exercise, and it has the advantage of being super easy on the body. So when you’re feeling like you can’t do anything g else, walk down your driveway and you will be a winner!

2- Power walking – seriously?

Seriously! You can take your walking to the next level and make it more challenging. It’s an actual sport, with leagues and all. Of course, you don’t have to take it all the way to the competitive level, but you could always pick up the pace here and there and get some good cardio going. Or if you prefer to walk indoors, you could up the setting on your treadmill for example.

3- Get on that treadmill!

I live in Minnesota. While I don’t let the (cold!) weather affect me during the winter, I have some friends who just don’t do well outside when it’s below 0* F. I can understand that.

It does not mean that you should forget about your therapeutic walking when the elements are inclement. A lot of gyms offer programs that are subsidized by health insurance providers. Take advantage of such programs, and get on that treadmill!

Note: a few activities on this list require a gym membership – if you don’t have a gym membership, don’t hesitate to be creative. A lot of the activities can be done without ever setting foot in a gym!

4- Far away spots aren’t just for new cars!

You know those parking spots far, far away from the store’s front doors? They are not for people with expensive cars or brand new vehicles anymore. As silly as it may sound, parking further away from your destination will force you to add those few extra steps. And that’s really good for you.

5- Go take a hike!!

I suppose this works best if you can have access to a nature trail or a hiking trail. Even though, realistically, all you need is an itinerary. There is great beauty in the city! But hiking usually refers to an outdoor activity.

The wonderful thing about hiking, in my opinion, is the fact that you don’t even pay that much attention about how many steps you’re taking or how far you’ve gone. It is a relaxing activity that lets you see the sights while doing your body good. Win-win in my book!

6- How many steps did you take today?

There is a wide variety of step counters on the market nowadays. At first, I was like a lot of people I know, thinking the little gadgets were useless and just a fad. But nope. One day, I have in and got myself one of the not-so-fancy ones. And I loved it! At least until I realized that my phone had the exact same feature for free, but I digress.

Anyway, that little step counter pushes me to take a few extra steps to reach the daily and weekly goals I set for myself. It’s totally private, and I don’t have to feel bad if the count is under my goal, because I am the only one who sees it.

7- Wax on, wax off!

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but yes, it’s true. There are good things about cleaning your house. I know, I know. It’s crazy talk. But it’s true. Housework can actually help you get your body moving. And it is considered a low impact activity! So next time you vacuum your living room or dust your shelves, you can feel twice as good about it: you will be making your house shine AND your body feel better!

dance for fibromyalgia

8- Dance like nobody’s watching!

You read that right. It is absolutely the cliché you think it is. In my defense, it is a fun cliché. Plus, it’s a good reminder that low impact exercise does not have to be boring. So if you enjoy dancing and moving to the beat, go for it! You will have fun, and you will do your body good. And let’s be honest: it’s a lot more fun than the previous point!

9- Dance like everybody’s watching!

Well, hello there, contradiction! I know I just told you to dance like no one was looking at you, and here I am now telling you the polar opposite. I am referring to ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing has gained in popularity since television shows have made it glamorous again.

It is a great feeling to move around that dance floor, when you know what you’re doing, and when you’re paired with someone at your level. It is an incredible ego booster, I’ll tell you! And as far as exercise, trust me when I say it is absolutely a workout!

10- Get those training wheels dusted off!

When people refer to something they haven’t done in a long time, yet can still do, they say it’s like riding a bike: you don’t forget how to do it. But I’m a realist, so before I get back on that bike, I’ll put those little squeaky wheels back on! Kidding aside, biking is a nice form of low impact exercise. It’s easy on the joints and it burns an insane amount of calories (bonus!).

11- Try a cycling class

Just like riding a bike, but indoors and going nowhere. Ok, so that was a bit negative, I’ll admit. But I find cycling classes fun to look at. I took a class once. That wasn’t pretty. I think the overall class level was way too advanced for me. I was a hot mess by the time the instructor announced the halfway point. You could say that I’m not a fan. But hey, to each his own!

take work stairs for fibromyalgia

12- Take the stairs. No, really. Do it.

I can feel my popularity going down one bullet point at a time… But yes, I said it: take the stairs. If you work in an office building, or live in a multi-level apartment building, turn a not-so-positive into a positive!

If you only have one or two stories to go, up or down, forfeit the elevator and take the stairs. Climbing stairs is a fairly low impact activity that will strengthen your knees and hips. Plus let’s face it: most times it’s faster to walk up that one flight of stairs than it is to wait for the elevator to get to your floor!

13- No stairs? No problem!

And you thought you could get away with it… Nope! There are pretty awesome stair climbers in most gyms that simulate actual stairs. You can choose your step height and how much you will have to push down on the step to make it go down, much like you would choose your speed and I tenacity on a treadmill. Just like with every “machine” at the gym, you will want to start sow and increase the rhythm proportionally with your abilities.

14- What is this instrument of torture?

That is exactly what I thought to myself the first time I saw an elliptical machine. I took one look and quickly decided it was not for me. And to be honest, it still isn’t for me. There is something about the combination of climbing, cycling and running all at once that makes my awful sense of balance leave the building! I can’t seem to find a way to not fall off. At least I know it’s not for me! But I’m told it’s a wonderful low impact exercise. So if you have better balance than me, then this machine might be for you!

15- Climb to the top!

Rock climbing. Well there goes another form of exercise that just isn’t for me. Which of course doesn’t mean it’s not for you! I have a mortifying fear of heights. You will never see me on a Ferris wheel, for example. And I mean never, ever.

So naturally, rock climbing just doesn’t do it for me. However, it is indubitably a great form of low impact exercise. And if you live in Flat Country (hello, Iowa!), many health clubs and even some sporting good stores have indoors climbing walls.

16- And one, and two, and three!

Those of us who remember the eighties (am I dating myself? Who am I kidding! Of course I am!) – anyhow, those of us who remember the eighties remember the aerobics programs on television, with the likes of Richard Simmons and Donna Somers.

It was quite novel at the time, and with the wider availability of health clubs and DVDs, aerobics fell in desuetude. And that’s too bad! Aerobics combine low impact dance moves with some cardio elements, and it makes a wonderful workout for Fibro Warriors.

Today, there are many workout DVDs available, as well as classes at your local gym, and programs available on demand from your cable or entertainment provider. So bring back those leg warmers and get moving!

yoga for fibromyalgia

17- Inhale… Exhale…

When I think yoga, I tend to visualize some super flexible, super relaxed people who can contortion their bodies into crazy poses with weird names. Downward dog, cobra, sphinx, camel, cat… it’s like a zoo was crossed with circus acrobats! The reality is a bit tamer.

In fact, anyone can do yoga! There are poses for beginners and for experts. They even have poses for kids. The key here is to find your appropriate level and not try stuff that seems too complicated. You will find it will suit both your body and your mind. Double whammy! On a side note, there is a pose called the Warrior – how perfect is that?

18- Lunges

Not quite as intense as boot camp, but you will definitely feel the burn! Lunges don’t have to be difficult to work their magic. Remember to have your knee and ankle, on the forward leg, align. In other words, your knee should not go past your ankle in either direction.

To increase the intensity of the lunge, simply move your backward leg further away from your forward leg. Enjoy! (Yes, that is sarcasm, because yes, it will not be pleasant the first few times. You’re welcome.)

19- Crunches

Yep. Crunches. You will hurt in places you didn’t even know you had muscles! Like with everything else, my fellow Fibro Warriors, you don’t want to push yourself too hard, too fast. Don’t worry if you don’t look like the fitness gurus on TV. The important part is to get your body moving. Don’t worry about having perfect form. Make sure you don’t injure yourself, and take it slow.

Drop 20!

I’m telling you, by the end of your routine, you’ll be fit for the Army! Push-ups can be hard on your arms and torso, so don’t worry if you have to rest your knees on the floor. Actually, I’ve never been able to do a floor push-up. I find that wall push-ups are a perfectly acceptable alternative. Standing facing the wall, place your hands at shoulder-level and gently lean then push back. For the purpose of moving your body, it is just as effective.

weight training for fibromyalgia

21- Weight training

No, not that kind of weight. Trust me, I got that one down. No I’m talking about strength training, either with free weights or by using machines such as the ones you can find at the gym. The purpose of weight or strength training is to make your muscles and joints stronger.

This kind of training doesn’t have to be intensive, and you can customize your training depending on your abilities, but also depending on how you feel on any given day.

Note: unlike a lot of low impact exercises, weight training or strength training needs to be done right. Let’s put it this way: if you don’t perform dance moves perfectly, there is no harm done. But, if you lift weights the incorrect way, you can damage your joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles. It is crucial to understand what the proper technique is before you start. You can either seek help from the employees at your local health club, or you can look for sources online.

22- I’m a gamer, dude!

This sounds quite silly, but hear me out. There are quite a few video games systems out on the market these days that target people who want to practice their fitness routine but for one reason or another, cannot do so at the gym.

The different game consoles will allow you to choose among a ton of fun ways to exercise. For example, you can “box,” “run,” “golf,” and many more fun activities. Some even have program where a virtual trainer guides you. And last but not least, some program actually let you practice your dance moves! Talk about fun exercising!

23- Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…

Just like Dory in “Finding Nemo,” you just need to keep swimming! Spending some time in the pool will feel wonderful on your aching muscles, and you will find that unwinding those tight knots in your back is heavenly! There are many ways to enjoy the pool. You can swim laps, or just hang out by the side of the pool and wiggle your legs around. Whichever style you prefer, you will find benefits in going to the pool!

aquatic exercising for fibromyalgia

24- Water fitness

Water fitness is one of the most challenging low impact exercises. Let me rephrase: aquatic exercising is a wonderful low impact exercise, but it allows you to move a lot easier than on land. What does that mean for Fibro Warriors?

Well, you get to move your body without exerting yourself. So why is it challenging? Simply because you have to be aware of your limits so as to not hurt the next day, yet your entire body feels different in the water. Make sure to take it easy the first few times and only increase the intensity of your workout gradually.

25- Rollerblading

I’ve got nothing much to say about rollerblading, except that I just can’t do it. I have zero balance, and moving objects don’t agree with me. With that said, it made the list because it definitely fits the definition of low impact exercise. So, yep. That’s all I’ve got.

26- Schuss!

Downhill skiing and cross country skiing both count as low impact exercise. Of course, one makes you dive nose first downhill and the other makes you shuffle your feet about in parallel. I’m pretty sure we all know what skiing is.

I’ll just say this: I broke my leg in three places a few years back. Me and downhill skiing have a hate-hate relationship. And that’s just fine by me. Keep on hatin’, downhill skiing. I don’t care. However, cross-country skiing and I are still on good terms.

A word to the wise: it can be a long way back if you go too far. Choose shorter trails and do them twice if you feel like it. You don’t want to be stuck halfway down the trail and unable to move your legs.

27- Is that a tennis racquet on your foot?

Snowshoeing is considered low impact because there is no jumping involved, and you always have one foot on the ground. Lemme tell you, though… snowing is no joke. It will give you an incredible leg workout, but also a surprising body core workout.

When you slip those snowshoes off, you will feel the burn in your tummy, your thighs and your back! At the risk of repeating myself, pace yourself and don’t overdo it until you know what your body can handle.

28- Row, row, row you boat…

I’ve been told rowing is a good type of exercise. I have never tried it. It does make sense though, since there is no high impact movements involved. If you don’t own a boat, some gyms have rowing machine that simulate the same type of movement. It’s a great way to strengthen your upper body.

29- Golf

I don’t golf. I don’t understand golf. I have zero interest in golf. Therefore, you’re on your own. All I can say is that it is definitely exercise and it is mostly low impact.

+1 – Giddy Up!

The +1 today is horseback riding. Granted, I need quite a bit of help getting on the horse (we’re talking climb on a picnic table and try to keep the horse steady while I go from the table to the saddle). But once I’m on the horse, it is great!

I really like the tranquility of a nice trail from the higher pint of view. Let’s be clear, though: I only like it when the horse walks. I get way too scared of the pace picks up.

As far a workout, absolutely it counts! You are holding on to that bridle and saddle with your hands to direct the horse (and a horse’s head is heavy to turn sideways!). And you’re squeezing on for dear life with your knees. And just like that: full body workout!

There are many more ways to get your body moving in a gentle way. I only listed a few select ones. I would love to hear from you, my fellow Fibro Warriors. What do YOU do to keep your body moving without paying for it the following two weeks? Let me know in the comments!

About the author

Servanne Edlund

Servanne Edlund

Narcolepsy. Ankylosing spondylitis. Fibromyalgia. The perfect trifecta to sleep through life! As a mom of two teenagers, I need to keep going - so I have found coping mechanisms to overcome the hurdles placed on my path.

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