Comparing the Effects of Aquatic and Land-based Exercise on the Physiological Stress Response of Women with Fibromyalgia


  • Cheryl Kelley
  • David P. Loy


Fibromyalgia, Stress, Cortisol, Land-Based Exercise, Aquatic-Based Exercise, Ai Chi


While many studies have suggested various treatment mechanisms for individuals with fibromyalgia (FMS), few have examined the impact of aquatic and land-based exercise on the physiological stress response in women with fibromyalgia. Due to the increased physiological and psychological stress associated with fibromyalgia, additional research examining the physiological responses to stress and interventions addressing stress in the FMS population is warranted. The present study examined salivary cortisol response of women with fibromyalgia during land-based exercise (i.e., walking on a treadmill) and aquatic exercise (i.e., Ai Chi). A single-subject alternating treatment design (N = 3) was selected to compare the effectiveness of Ai Chi and treadmill walking on salivary cortisol levels. Cortisol samples were obtained from each participant prior to and immediately following each treatment session to serve as a psycho-physiological marker of stress. Results suggested both aquatic and land-based exercise had a positive influence in reducing salivary cortisol in women with FMS; however, exercising at a moderate pace on a treadmill proved to be the superior treatment intervention. Results of this study may potentially help women with FMS discover an alternate or additional treatment to assist in coping with stress related to chronic illness.





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