Myopathy & Exercise

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Myopathy can take on many forms, but no matter how it manifests, myopathy occurs when muscle fibers in the body become permanently damaged. Depending on how it presents, myopathy can drastically affect some people's lives, while others are not as impaired. Certain exercises may help you, depending on what type of myopathy you have. Exercise alone is not a cure for myopathy, but is used as therapy to relieve your symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms

The primary symptom of myopathy is muscle weakness, notes the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Weakness can be accompanied by stiffness, pain and spasms. Chronic muscle cramps are also a sign of some myopathy.


Types of myopathies include defects in skin, bone, skeletal muscles and developmental skills. Exercise can help those with myopathies that affect the skeletal muscles. Mitochondrial myopathy is characterized by defects in the mitochondria of the cell. The mitochondria are responsible for energy production for working muscles. Muscular dystrophy is characterized by uncontrollable spasms and weakness of the muscle. Polymyositis is inflammation of the skeletal muscles.

Strengthening Exercises

Because most conditions of myopathy are characterized by muscle weakness, strength training is an important part of exercise therapy. Strength training should be done at a tolerable intensity, especially because this type of exercise requires strength and energy. Try to select exercises that work the major muscle groups of the body and do as many or as little as you feel comfortable doing. Strength training exercises should feel challenging but not painful. Exercises such as leg flexion, extension, adduction and abduction are helpful for the legs and hips. Abdominal crunches and bridging exercises can be done for the back and abs. Exercises for the upper body, such as the chest press, bicep curl, tricep pushdown and row, work the upper back, chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps. You can start with one set of 10 to 15 repetitions and increase up to three sets as you feel stronger. The key to resistance training is to take your time and listen to your body, notes Vancouver Coastal Health.


Stretching exercises are helpful if your muscles feel stiff or if you are suffering from cramps. Stretching can be done several times a day, but you may find them especially helpful first thing in the morning or after periods of prolonged sitting. Stretch all of the major muscle groups of the body. Try stretching the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, chest, back and arms. Stretching should not cause you pain; you should feel tension in the muscle but not to the point of pain.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is activity that is done for a prolonged period of time to increase your heart and breathing rates. This kind of exercise is useful for people with myopathy because of the incidence of affected breathing and heart muscles. You should choose an exercise that is fun and easy for you to do. Low-impact exercises such as walking or bicycling are effective at challenging your muscles and raising your heart rate. You can start exercising as little or as much you as you feel comfortable doing. Over time, you should try to increase to 30 minutes of continuous movement a day.


Before you start any new exercise program, always check with your doctor. He can tell you, based on your medical history, if there are any activities in which you should not participate. When you have myopathy, you should work only in your comfort zone. Don't push yourself too hard; exercise should take some effort but should not cause you undue pain.