Exercising with Ankylosing Spondylitis

Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwick, PymbleBalmain and Neutral Bay  use exercise to help individuals living with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) manage their condition. Keep reading to learn more about AS, why exercise is so important and why seeing an Exercise Physiologist is so beneficial. 


What is AS?


Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that affects the spine and in particular the sacroiliac joints. Ankylosis means ‘fused bones’ and spondylitis means ‘inflammation in the spinal bones’. AS can also affect other parts of the body, such as shoulders, hips, hands, feet, bowel and lungs.

As a result of the inflammation in the spine, new bone may grow around the joints, leading to stiffness in the back.

In severe cases the extra bone can fuse the bones in the spine together, stopping them from moving (1). However, this is now commonly preventable with the aid of treatments such as medicines and exercise.


The symptoms of AS usually begin between the ages of 15 and 45 years. There is no known cause of AS, however it is more common in those with family history of it and those with a gene called HLA-B27.


Why is exercise important?


Exercise is essential for physical and mental wellbeing and can counteract many of the impacts of AS. For example, exercise helps to maintain joint mobility, control pain, reduce stiffness and fatigue, and improve response to medications (2). An exercise routine for those with AS should likely make up a combination of mobility, strength, balance and aerobic exercises.


  • Range of motion exercises:

Sometimes people want to limit movement when there is pain, swelling or stiffness. However, a lack of movement in the long term can lead to loss of mobility and increase the risk of fusion of joints. When a joint is inflamed, the surrounding muscles tighten to control motion, resulting in even more stiffness and pain. It is recommended that range of motion exercises be done daily for all joints and particularly those that are stiff.


  • Aerobic exercise:

Aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming and cycling, improves heart and lung function and it has been shown to reduce disease activity, pain and fatigue in people who engage in it regularly. The current recommendations are to perform aerobic exercise for at least 30mins on most days of the week.


  • Strength exercises:

Strengthening exercises maintain muscle mass and help joints stay strong and mobile. It is important to strengthen the whole body but ensuring back and core exercises are incorporated is also very important for AS. Strengthening exercises should be performed at least 2 times per week.


  • Balance exercises:

Balance improves the ability to control and stabilise the bodies position. They are important for reducing the risk of injury. Balance exercises should be performed 3 to 5 times per week.


How can an Exercise Physiologist help?


Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are able to assist those with Ankylosing Spondylitis by prescribing exercise interventions that are safe, effective and tailored to individual needs. They have an understanding of the symptoms and complexities surrounding inflammatory back pain. AEPs can also provide education regarding flares and activity pacing.


AS can be managed very effectively using the right tools. Our Exercise Physiologists have the experience to help you manage AS and keep doing the things you enjoy. Call Longevity Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista and Neutral Bay on 1300 964 002 to enquire today.


Written by Courtney Maher



(1) Australia, A. (2017). Ankylosing spondylitis. Retrieved from Arthritis Australia: Ankylosing spondylitis

(2) Spondylitis Association of America . (2019). Exercise. Retrieved from Spondylitis Association of America : https://spondylitis.org/about-spondylitis/treatment-information/exercise/



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