When you have ankylosing spondylitis (AS), staying active is difficult—but it’s essential. Exercise, even a small amount, can help you maintain flexibility and posture.
Exercise has other benefits too: It keeps your heart healthy, lifts your mood, and helps you get a better night’s sleep.
You don’t have to complete a triathlon to be active…although that’s not impossible for some with AS. Just set aside a little time each day to keep moving and flexible.
Here are some ways to add activity to your life:
- Take a deep breath. Deep breathing is an important way to maintain your lung capacity and keep your chest flexible. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Lay your hands on your ribcage and concentrate on feeling them move as your chest expands. Deep breathing is something you can do anytime, even first thing in the morning when you’re feeling stiff.
- Get in the pool. Swimming and aqua therapy are great options for those with AS. Not only does the water create buoyancy and gentle resistance for painful joints, but the warm, moist environment can ease stiffness and improve circulation.
- Practice prone lying. Prone lying, or lying facedown, is a great exercise to help you maintain an erect posture. Lie facedown on the floor or a firm surface for a few minutes to start. Position your head however is comfortable for you—straight down, resting on your hands, or to the side. Work toward staying in this position for 20 minutes. Once you’ve practiced this for a while and feel comfortable with it, you can make it more advanced by lifting your head and shoulders up as far as you can. Try this for 10 repetitions.
- Try tai chi or yoga. Both of these practices focus on gentle, controlled movements combined with spiritual centering. Tai chi is safe for just about anyone. Yoga has several different varieties, some of which may be too aggressive for those with AS. Talk with your doctor about which type might be best for you, or search for a yoga instructor who is experienced in working with those chronic conditions.
- Do stretching and strengthening exercises. It’s important that the muscles supporting and surrounding your affected joints be strong and flexible. Do exercises to stretch and strengthen the neck, shoulders, core, and hips. Add small weights or resistance bands for extra impact.
- Take a walk. Just getting out your door and around the block is good for you. If you don’t have the time or energy for a long walk, break it up; take a 10-minute walk at lunchtime and a 20-minute walk in the evening. If you need extra stability, you can give Nordic walking, which uses trekking poles, a try.
Ankylosing spondylitis can be a difficult condition to manage, but making time for exercise can help you feel better right away and in the long term. Work with your doctor or physical therapist to find the exercise routine that will work best for you.