10 Effective Exercises For Countering Ankylosing Spondylitis


Explore your options with a variety of exercises  including water aerobics and Tai Chi, that can help counter the disorder

Ankylosing spondylitis is a disorder that causes inflammation of the vertebrae of the spine making it fuse together to create a hunchback. The condition deteriorates the spine’s flexibility and if the inflammation spread to the ribs, breathing deeply can be a problem for the patient. Men are affected more than women by the disorder and symptoms usually set in during early adulthood. There is no clear cause for the condition but there are several things one can do to prevent it, exercising and quitting smoking being the top of the list. Exercising for even 10 minutes a day can prove to be useful in countering the condition and regaining flexibility of the spine. If you are only experiencing early symptoms of the condition, then include a good exercise routine into your lifestyle to drive it away from your life. If the condition has already been diagnosed for you, these exercises can help strengthen the spine. However, consulting your doctor before performing these is recommended by experts.

Getting warmed up

1 - Getting warmed up

You cannot directly start off with cardio or strengthening exercises without getting warmed up first. Warming up signals the muscles that rigorous activity is going to start in a few minutes and so keeps the muscles prepared for what is to come later and prevents injuries. Warm up exercises can include a march up in place, a 10 minutes slow walk that increases pace gradually, or climbing a set of stairs twice. A warm up should be at a pace where you can hold a conversation without panting. Once you have warmed up for 10 minutes, your body is ready to move on to the next step in the exercise process.


2 - Physiotherapy

If you have ankylosing spondylitis, consulting a physiotherapist to help you develop a program of suitable exercises is recommended. The physiotherapist can perform an initial assessment to advise on the best exercises for your condition. Several patients prefer to work out by playing sports rather than going to the gym and discussing this with your physiotherapist will open options about what kind of activity you would enjoy. The physiotherapist can counter a good plan that involves appropriate warm up sessions and exercises and if you prefer doing these from home, you can always go for a few sessions to understand how to do them properly, and then do them from the comfort of your home itself. It is recommended that you continue going to physical assessments at least once a year after you start your exercises to ensure that they are working for you and also for improving your spine health.

Water aerobics

3 - Water aerobics

These type of classes involve a complete aerobic workout in a swimming pool. The participants gather at the shallow end of the pool and follow an instructor as they perform various aerobic exercises. Aqua aerobics is highly recommended for ankylosing spondylitis patients because it provides a full body workout without inflicting the joints with any additional stress. The water buoyancy plays a role in ensuring that the body doesn’t take more stress than required. The aerobic movements are usually similar to the ones performed in a studio but the water makes you work harder because it provides some resistance to the body. Try a class of water aerobics and you’ll probably be hooked because of how it keeps you energized while strengthening your spine and promoting cardiovascular health.

Circuit training


Circuit training involves working on different parts of the body by several sets of each function of an exercise station. Every exercise is performed for a time period before moving on to the next set of exercises. It can be intensive and is great for promoting cardiovascular health. Ankylosing spondylitis patients can have a full body workout by getting involved in a circuit training session but it can be competitive because everyone tries to work out as much as they can. Talk to your instructor about your condition so that he can cater a program that is more suitable to you without causing any injury. The training itself can be very motivating and you might push yourself to do better which will feel good temporarily but can increase flare-ups later so be cautious.


5 - Pilates

Pilates can be very useful in helping patients of ankylosing spondylitis for core strengthening and reducing discomfort and relieving pain. The exercise is a wholesome activity that improves strength, flexibility, breathing and awareness to promote wellbeing. The instructor guides the class through controlled postures that strengthen the muscles to support the spine properly. The exercise is a low impact one that is ideal for ankylosing spondylitis and will improve one’s posture and balance. Control over the breath increases the blood flow to the targeted areas, thus promoting better blood circulation. The classes usually last an hour and performing the exercises for just thrice a week can show drastic results within three weeks.



Tae-Bo incorporates techniques used in Thai boxing and Taekwondo to tailor an aerobics routine that improves co-ordination and balance. Ankylosing spondylitis patients can gain vast benefits of improved flexibility by going to tae-bo classes. However, caution must be exercised because of the intensity of the activity. Consulting your doctor is advisable before enrolling in classes, and once you have the go, talk to your instructor so that he is aware of your limitations and can cater a routine that is more acceptable to your condition.

Tai Chi

7 - Tai chi

This Chinese martial arts form is popular over the globe and it consists of fluid movements that are performed in a relaxed and rhythmic way. There are several styles of tai chi but the most popular ones are Chen, Yang, Wu and Sun style. Tai chi is recommended for ankylosing spondylitis patients because the fluid movements minimize the flexion deformity of the spine and improves spinal muscle strength. Added benefits of improved co-ordination and balance is a perk of this activity. Patients often feel relaxed and stronger within a few classes. However, introducing the practice permanently in one’s life is recommended because once discontinued, the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can act up again.



In this exercise, a specially designed static bike is used to burn up to 500 calories within just an hour. Classes involve music that is designed to motivate the group to work harder and it involves intense leg movements that can aggravate the knee and hip areas if performed in excess. Since only the legs are exercised in this activity, including other strengthening activities that can exercise the entire body are recommended. It is also important to warm up and cool down properly while starting and ending a spinning session. Riding the bike involves being in a hunched position for a long period so stretching can help loosen the spinal muscles and keep them limber. Because of the intensity of spinning, experts recommend prepping your instructor on your ankylosing spondylitis condition so that they can guide you appropriately.

Body balance


Postures and fluid motions from yoga, pilates and tai chi are incorporated into this low impact exercise to create a routine that is beneficial for ankylosing spondylitis patients. Breath control and stretches are a common feature of body balance and the movements are designed to create a fluidity that can increase blood circulation without stressing out the muscles. Ambient music is played during the class to elevate the mood and keep the pace languid. Body balance classes are relaxing and the joints are kept in constant motion that can help even arthritis patients. These classes are great for correcting posture and increasing core strength. Enroll in a professional class that is guided by a qualified instructor and discuss your limitations beforehand so that the teacher can guide you appropriately.


10 - YogaYoga is an ideal activity to include in an ankylosing spondylitis patient’s routine. Regular practices if yoga postures can increase flexibility and promote a calm mind and spirit. Doctors often recommend yoga for ankylosing spondylitis patients but keeping your yoga instructor informed about the limitation of your condition is necessary. You can enroll in a beginner’s yoga class and once you have mastered the postures, the exercise can be performed in the comfort of your home.



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