Walking can be really tough. There was a time when my AS felt horrible after walking, even high impact activity such as running felt better. When you have a spondylitis disease, any and all activity feels completely out of the question at times. There are days when I force myself to do exercise and I’m still a ball of pain. Flares can be very stubborn.
If it feels so bad to move, why do it?
Because it feels worse not to. Every time I’ve given myself a break from exercise, it’s made me feel worse and flares last longer.
For many of us, there will be days in May that we will not want to walk. We need to listen to our bodies. If you are anything like me, then I’d highly suggest doing some activity. On the really tough days, deep breathing and laying flat on the floor counts. On other days, do what you can. For WYASO, use a conversion table to convert the activity to steps. Btw, bowling on the Wii is 61 steps/minute.
‘Dr. Google’ will give you a thousand results of the benefits of exercise. Refine your search to spondylitis and exercise and you will see peer reviewed, evidence based studies specifically linking exercise with better outcomes for people with spondylitis. For those of you with osteoarthritis, it helps that too.
Spondylitis treatment has two major components: medication to control inflammation and exercise to maintain mobility, strength and function of the joints involved. Exercise is something to discuss regularly with your doctor.
Exercise is Essential is the title of Chapter 5 of SAA’s Straight Talk On Spondylitis book.
“Exercise is an integral part of any spondylitis program… Participating in sports and recreational activities is part of the management of spondylitis. A proper level of fitness and activity helps decrease pain and stiffness.
Activity also nourishes bones and consequently helps combat osteoporosis.” This book is designed to provide information necessary to manage spondylitis and a good chunk of it details exercises. There is a step-by-step guide and a handy poster.
If you’re a goal oriented person, set your intention by creating a physical ‘wish list’. Perhaps you want a healthy cardiovascular system, increased strength, improved daily functioning, increased resilience, reduced fatigue, reduced depression, improved posture, improved flexibility, to have fun with movement, improved confidence and self image, etc.
For me, I’m concerned with increased risk of heart issues with long term inflammation, so cardio is important. I’m also concerned about susceptibility to fractures when I age, so maintaining balance skills is important. Function and quality of life is important, so everyday strength and range of motion is important. I cycle, lift light weights and practice yoga. I also find being a part of a proactive, informed and supportive community to be beneficial. So, WYASO is important.
If you still need a reason to walk then walk because you can. Make it a physical celebration of what you can do. Spondylitis affects people differently. Some people in our community are not able to walk in May. If you can, walk and add a prayer for those that can’t.
SAA has additional resources on exercise:
Physical Therapist and fellow spondy, Sturdy McKee provided a wonderful overview of physical therapy for spondylitis
SAA’s exercise DVD is another excellent resource for exercises specifically for people living with spondylitis (fee) http://www.spondylitis.org/store/productlist.aspx?department=37
SAA’s brochure The Role of Exercise in Spondyloarthritis (free) http://www.spondylitis.org/store/productlist.aspx?department=3