Most Effective Ankylosing Spondylitis Exercises


If you are suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, then you would think exercising can be the last resort that you should try. You do have to keep in mind that becoming physically strong is the best way to become healthy. Hence, when it concerns the ankylosing Spondylitis, exercising is the best way for handling symptoms like stiffness, pain, etc.

When you are exercising, it would easy improve the pain levels and even increase your mobility as well as balance. Most importantly, it would enhance the whole quality of your life and health.

What Do You Mean by Ankylosing Spondylitis?

The ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis, and this is one of the most painful and progressive kind. This would affect the spine and even can adversely affect the joints of the body. Not only that it can even affect the eyes, tendons, ligaments, and bowels of the body. Frankly, the condition is unpredictable, and it would affect people in many ways.

Most of the doctors treating spondylitis feel that the medication alone won’t be enough for treating ankylosing spondylitis. Furthermore, they feel that exercise is one of the major aspects involved in the treatment for the condition and is something of high priority. The two major symptoms that people suffering from AS go through are pain and stiffness. That makes it necessary for you to be flexible and fit for handling the condition.

How Ankylosing Spondylitis Would Affect Your Spine?

Like previously stated above the AS is just like the normal arthritis and would lead to the inflammation of the joints present in the vertebrae and spine. When the disease progresses, it can affect the sacroiliac joints that connect the base of the spine to the pelvis. Here this can lead to chronic and severe pain, discomfort, stiffness and even problems to your lower hips and backs.

You would be surprised to know that the inflammation can happen in the connective tissue present in one’s spine, especially where the tendons as well as ligaments are attached to the bone. These would be present in the cartilage that is present among your ribs and breastbone, mostly in the back of your heel. Also, it can be even found on your hip and shoulder joints.

Sometimes in the severe cases of the AS, the new bones can form into the spine as the part of the body’s attempt to heal from the inflammation. Now the extra bone would bridge the gap among the vertebrae and that can reduce the flexibility of your back. Hence, what happens is that eventually the bones would grow right at the sides of the vertebrae, and this can lead to the sections of the spine to fuse together and becoming somewhat immobile.

Ultimately, it would lower the chances for you to turn your head, stand in a straight way and even make you sometimes immobile. Not only that the bony fusion may stiffen the rib cage, making it tough for you to take deep breaths.

More often, the ultimate fusion of the spine cord would make it to curve forward. That can lead to a hunched kind of forward posture. Keep in mind that there’s no cure for ankylosing spondylitis. However, many of the treatments like medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, and biologics along with the best physical therapy would lower the pain and stiffness, and possibly slow the progression of the disease.

How Does Exercise Assist in Curing Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Along with getting treated by your doctor regularly and following the prescribed treatment, you can follow an active lifestyle for handling your AS. Various doctors and physicians recommend that one must follow exercise and physical therapy to get rid of the pain, maintain flexibility and even improve the posture, mobility, and strength. Many research clearly show that people suffering from AS feel that their pain improves after exercising and doing heavy body activity.

Health experts feel that the best time to exercise is when you wake up. The morning stiffness would be commonly with people suffering from AS. In such case, you need to begin with flexibility and other range-of-motion related exercises. Also, that would help you to continue to be active and exercise all around the day.

Some of the major exercises that your physical therapist and doctor would inform you to do are –

  • Posture Training: When you practice good posture techniques, it would help you avoid slouching forward so you reduce the amount of strain on your spine.
  • Flexibility Exercises: Through the gentle range-of-motion and stretching exercises, it would help keep the spine and other joints from getting stiff. Also, it would improve mobility among your joints, and help keep your back flexible.
  • Deep-Breathing Based Exercises: The goal is to expand your chest so you can breathe better.
  • Strengthening Exercises: You need to make your back and core muscles stronger. This helps to maintain proper posture and keep your body stable. By strengthening your back muscles, it would provide better support to bones and joints, which may reduce pain.
  • Balance Exercises: Frankly, the loss of balance is kind of advanced AS. Improper posture would make you less steady on your feet. That can increase the risk of falling whenever you walk.
  • Aquatic Exercises: Trying water aerobics can assist in decreasing the joint pain and improve mobility.

Recommend Kind of Exercises You Can Try

Many of the spondylitis experts and doctors recommend four major kinds of exercises. These are ideal ones and contains all of them. The major ones are –

  • Cardiovascular: These exercises increase the heart rate for an extended time, for example, swimming or walking, improve lung and heart function, as well boosts the mood. They also reduce pain and fatigue.
  • Balance: Balance based exercises improve stability when still and moving. They even reduce the likelihood of falling. They are especially useful for people with lower bone density.
  • Muscle Strengthening: With strong core and back muscles, they support the spine, improves movement and posture, and reduces pain.
  • Stretching: Such exercises improve flexibility and reduce muscle stiffness, swelling, and pain. They also minimize the risk of fusion of the joints.

What Are the Advantages of Exercising for People Suffering From Akylosing Spondylitis?

No doubt, exercising is a necessary method of relieving the symptoms of AS and maintaining strength and flexibility. Exercise is an integral part of the treatment. Sometimes exercise acts against some of the effects that AS can brings on the body. Furthermore, it can help people maintain more mobility and flexibility over time. Additionally, it prevents the spinal fusion. Some people find that exercising as effective for controlling pain.

Furthermore, exercise can help with AS by:

  • Enhancing Strength, Balance, And Flexibility
  • Improving Breathing Capacity
  • Improving Posture
  • Maximizing Bone Density
  • Reducing High Blood Pressure
  • Improving a Person’s Response to Medications
  • Improving Cardiovascular Health
  • Aiding Weight Management

What Should Be Avoided?

Of course, exercise is necessary for the treatment of AS. However, it is important to work with a healthcare professional whenever you are thinking on any kind of exercise program.

Some sports, including high impact activities, such as jogging, can cause problems. Even contact sports harms people with advanced AS because these activities can increase the risk of joint or spinal injury.

Furthermore, low impact and competitive sports, like volleyball and badminton, are great options. Pilates, yoga, and tai chi are also good choices for people with AS.

Tips to Keep In Mind Before You Start Exercising Regime

  • Warm Up: As with all exercise, it is necessary to warm up first. People can start with stretches to loosen the joints and muscles before doing strength exercises or cardio. Doing this reduces the risk of injury.
  • Exercise On Comfortable Surfaces: It is best to perform exercises in a comfortable area, such as on a carpeted floor or exercise mat. People who have problems getting up and down from the floor can exercise on a bed that has a firm mattress.
  • Consult Your Doctor: Anyone thinking about starting an AS exercise program should consult a doctor or physical therapist first. These experts can advise what exercises are suitable and how a person should carry them out. A person with AS can also get help with designing an individual exercise program.
  • Build Up Slowly: When starting an exercise program, people are likely to experience some discomfort, so it is important not to overdo it. Starting slowly and building up gradually is a better approach.

Different Exercises You Need to Do

1. Press Up for Stretching Your Spinal Cord

Sometime ankylosing spondylitis shortens the spine and muscles in your back. Stretching with this move can help the “rounded” back and back pain.

First, lie on your stomach with your legs behind you. Slowly prop yourself up on your elbows so your chest is off the ground. If you’re able, straighten your arms. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times. Make sure to do this move once a day.

2. Wall Sit for Better Posture

Now stand with your back against the wall. Slowly, put your feet shoulder-width apart, and away from the wall. Then you need to slowly slide your back down the wall. It may take time, but work towards being able to get to the point where your thighs are parallel with the floor — like you’re sitting in a chair. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.

3. Plank for a Stronger Core

To make sure you’re strong enough for this exercise, start in a standing position with your feet flat on the floor and your forearms on the kitchen counter.

Once you can do that easily, move on to the harder version. Your stomach, back, and butt muscles help your posture. Work them with this move as you won’t need any crunches. Kneel on a mat. Put your forearms on the ground. Push your legs out behind you and balance on your toes. Squeeze your stomach and butt muscles to hold your body in a straight line. Don’t crane your head up or let it hang down. Keep your neck in line with your spine. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times. Add more time as you become stronger. Always keep your core tight. Do these 3 to 5 times a week.

4. Try Standing by Raising Your Legs To Loosen Tight Hips

Hold the back of a chair or railing. Keep your back straight with a slight bend in your knees. Slowly lift one leg out to the side so it’s a few inches off the ground. Then lower it back to the starting position.

Next, kick the same leg straight behind you to 45 degrees. Remember to keep good posture. Avoid bending over at the waist. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each leg.

5. Do Chin Tucks to Stretch Your Neck

AS can make you lean forward. That can cause your neck to get tight and give you headaches. This move can strengthen your neck to keep you upright and relieve tightness.

Lie on your back. Without lifting your head off the floor, tuck your chin in slightly toward your chest. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times. Do this stretch twice a day.

6. Roll Your Shoulders to Loosen Up

Stand or sit up tall. Keep your spine as straight as you’re comfortably able to. Gently shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, then move your shoulders back and down. You can feel this in your upper back. Think about pulling your shoulder blades together and down in a rolling motion. Then pull your shoulders back up toward your ears. Repeat 5 to 10 times.


As we all know exercise provides a wide range of benefits for people with AS. It improves the flexibility, strength, posture, and cardiovascular health. Not only that regular exercise helps to improve mobility and reduce the risk of fusion.

Just before you begin to do any kind of exercise, it is much important that you consult your doctor. Getting approval from your medical practitioner can help to lower the risk of making your AS worse.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.