Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to fit more movement and exercise into my daily routine. Medical studies continue to show that frequent low-impact exercise, such as walking, help people with fibromyalgia lessen their pain and fatigue.
At first, I wasn’t convinced, even after my rheumatologist emphasized how fundamentally important moderate exercise is to managing my fibromyalgia. I faced a physical and mental block of muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and fibrofog daily, and the thought of just the amount of energy is required to walk to the grocery store a block away chased away my motivation to lace up my tennis shoes and hit the pavement. The act of even walking can be exhausting. And if I overdo it, I can easily trigger a fibroflare that will takes days to recover.
My recent trip through Eastern Europe has reversed my conclusions and proved my doctor right. The first week I was exhausted from just a couple of hours of exploration on foot. But over the course of those 6 weeks, I began to develop more energy, less pain, and fewer episodes of fibrofog. I found myself walking and sightseeing for longer periods of time. I remained mindful of my limits and took multiple breaks during the day, but my stamina improved convincingly. I have concluded that this shift in my health is due to a combination of factors – I was vigilant about my eating habits, sleep schedule, and taking breaks, but I was also walking upwards of 5 hours a day.
Now I am preparing, as mentioned previously, for a trip to Iceland in 2011 that will hopefully involve some hiking, glacier hikes, and sea kayaking. I have over a year to prepare myself physically. But 5 hours of walking a day? Not feasible when I work part-time, have chores and a life to live. I am lucky when I can squeeze an hour’s walk into the day! So I am becoming creative about how I slip moments of physical activity into my routine.
So far, I have focused on using my bike or two feet to run errands whenever possible. For example, instead of taking the bus or driving to the bank, grocery store or nearby mall, I walk. Everything seems to be within a 30 min. fast-paced walk of my house or workplace.
This has been the first step. Next I plan to begin walking home from work on days of beautiful weather, about an hour’s worth of walking. Multiple parks and businesses are along the way, so I could include a rest break on a park bench with a good book, or a list of errands to save time.
I am also planning to begin taking mini-breaks at work when I begin to feel fatigue or fibrofog setting in. A quick 5 minute stroll around the building works wonders.
Will these strategies always work to relieve my fibro pain and fatigue? Definitely not. I had my moments of exhaustion in Europe when I had to cancel all plans and lay low. I will still experience stiff, painful mornings and dense, debilitating fibrofogs. But hopefully I can make the good days outweigh the bad and be conditioned in time for my Iceland adventure.