This is a guest post from Molly McNamee of MFit Workouts.
Ankylosing Spondylitis primarily affects the spine and sacroiliac joints leading to stiffness. However, engaging in regular exercise can help counteract these effects by improving joint flexibility and reducing stiffness.
Having a consistent exercise routine is incredibly beneficial in managing an autoimmune condition like Ankylosing Spondylitis. That's why exercise is one of the pillars of a holistic approach to managing AS.
However, certain types of exercise can make flare ups worse and be counterproductive. Today I want to share with you what exercises you should definitely be doing and why you should be doing them. As well as, which exercises to avoid.
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This advice can be applied to you regardless of which specific autoimmune disease you are living with.
Exercises to avoid with ankylosing spondylitis
We want exercise to positively impact you. So, it’s going to be best to avoid high impact workouts. This includes any sort of jumping movement. These types of workouts will spike your nervous system, cause inflammation and likely be quite painful to do.
My rule of thumb as a fitness coach is if the exercise is hurting your joints, stop immediately. Working out should fire up your muscles, bring your heart rate up a bit and that’s it. If your joints hurt and you feel extreme muscle soreness the next day, you’ve done something wrong.
I also do not recommend heavy weight lifting.
You should still work your muscles though. So, let’s talk about how to do that.
Best exercises for ankylosing spondylitis
If you have Ankylosing Spondylitis, you should be doing some combination of low impact workouts, deep stretching and strength training. These workouts can reduce inflammation, energize your body and relieve back pain and joint pain.
Low impact workouts include: walking, cycling, swimming, or aerobics that don’t involve any jumping. I personally teach exclusively low impact workouts. I like to experiment with movements that blend elements of boxing and dance. Low impact workouts can be fun and really improve your energy if you are dealing with chronic fatigue.
Deep stretching and mobility exercises are also super important. When your muscles are tight, your joint pain will be 10x worse. So, it’s good to have a daily stretch routine that can release some of the tightness from your body. I recommend starting with standing stretches and movements you can do while seated in a chair. Gentle twists, bends and hip openers are a good place to begin!
Finally, strength training should be done with bodyweight, light dumbbells or resistance bands. Yoga and pilates are great strength training options. However, if you don’t love those types of classes, there are literally hundreds of other workout styles to choose from. Strength training will likely result in some minor temporary inflammation. But long-term, it has been shown to improve inflammation in those with Ankylosing Spondylitis.
It’s important to remember that you need to go at your own pace. Don’t start doing all of this tomorrow; ease into it. Everyone’s experience with autoimmune disease symptoms is unique. Some days will be harder than others, so find a routine that works for you and allows flexibility for those days that you need something different.
If you are finding it difficult to figure out what works specifically for you and your body, it would be helpful to reach out to a coach who can help guide you in the right direction. You don’t have to do it alone.