If you have ankylosing spondylitis (AS), you might think that exercising is the lastthing you should do. However, staying physically active can be one of the best ways to help manage AS symptoms like pain and stiffness.
“Exercise for AS will help improve pain levels, increase mobility and balance, and enhance overall quality of life and health, says Rodney Tehrani, MD, director of the division of allergy, rheumatology, and immunology at Loyola University in Maywood, Illinois. “I recommend exercise for all of my patients with AS who can tolerate it,” he says.
Whether you prefer taking a daily walk or going for a regular swim, it’s important to perform low-impact exercises every week. Don’t know where to start? Here are nine great options for people with AS:
Walk It Off
For those who can safely exercise, Dr. Tehrani recommends low-impact activities like walking. Walking is also a great way to ease into exercise. Joint deformities, fused joints, misinformation, and fear of getting hurt can discourage some people from exercising, Tehrani says. Start out with short, 5- to 10-minute walks and then work your way up to almost daily walking for at least 30 minutes at a time, the Arthritis Foundation advises. (To be safe, consult your doctor first.)
Hit the Water
With low-impact exercises like swimming and water aerobics, you can reap the heart and muscle benefits of an activity like running, while minimizing the risk of joint pain. “Swimming is especially great because it puts virtually no pressure on joints,”says Victor Shen, PT, assistant director of physical therapy at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in California. If possible, opt for twice-weekly classes designed for people with arthritis at your local Y or community pool. (Seek out a heated or indoor pool for extra joint pampering.)
Strengthen Your Muscles
A strength-training program can help strengthen your muscles while taking the strain off your joints. You can use light free weights, exercise machines, household items such as canned goods, or simply your own body weight. Strength-training exercises can do double duty. For example, plank exercises can work many muscles groups at once. Just start slowly, gradually increasing the number of your repetitions and the amount of time you hold each position, recommends the Arthritis Foundation.
Try Tai Chi
This ancient Chinese practice — which focuses on deliberate, controlled movements and breathing — is a great option for people with AS. Tai chi not only helps people improve their balance and stability, but it may also help relieve back pain, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Find an accredited instructor who can teach you the proper way to perform the moves. “It’s important to mix up exercise routines and move your body in different ways,” Shen says.