So why exercise? A few very important reasons. Flexibility. Improved blood flow to supply oxygen and nutrients to cells, muscles, organs and brain (less fibro fog!). Better mood. Decreased stress. More restful sleep.
But does the exercise have to be aerobic? A Tufts University study decided to find out. The recent published study tested 226 fibromyalgia patients in 5 different exercise groups and followed them for one year. Impressive, right? The first 4 tai chi groups comprised 151 subjects with the remaining 75 assigned to an aerobic exercise group. Each supervised group met 2-3 times per week and participation supported with personal and telephone encouragement.
Surprise! The aerobic group did not fare as well, nor comply as faithfully to the weekly schedule as the tai chi groups. Subjects completed pre and interval (baseline, 24 weeks) fibromyalgia impact questionnaires (FIQ) to assess anxiety, depression, self-efficacy, coping strategies, physical function and limitations, sleep and quality of life. Physical tests such as 6 minute walks and balance testing were also performed. The tai chi groups showed “statistically significant” improvement across all measures. Plus, the tai chi groups who exercised for 24 weeks showed greater improvement than the 12 week tai chi group. Overall, subjects attended tai chi more often than those assigned to aerobic exercise, which probably accounts for the positive results.
The researchers concluded that tai chi treatments thus help relieve FM symptoms more than aerobic exercise, suggesting an alternative to the commonly prescribed aerobic exercise for FM.
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