Exercise classes

Think about joining an exercise class to maintain motivation

When thinking about joining a class:

  1. Get as much information as you can before you take part
  2. Make sure that any class instructor is aware of your AS and any limitations you may have
  3. Remember your ability to exercise may change from week to week. An exercise you find easy one week may be more difficult the next

Is the class low or high impact?

Low impact classes are better to make sure your joints are not irritated during and after exercise.

Does the class have an element of body contact?

Body contact in exercise is something you should tend to avoid.

Are there different levels of class on different days?

Always start with a beginners' class. Learning good technique from the start is essential to gain the most benefit.

Body balance

Body balance classes are low impact and combine movements from yoga, Pilates and tai chi. The aim of the class is to use breathing control, stretches, movements and positions to enhance your flexibility and strength.

As movements are gentle and flowing and instructors usually use light music in the background, many people Body Balancie calming. It's a slower paced class but the continued movement mean that you burn calories and keep your joints mobile. The class will work your core stability which means it is good for posture management.

Body pump

This class is low impact and involves performing set movements while holding weights.

You set the level at which you want to work which is a great advantage for people with AS as you may feel able to do more one week than another.

Classes are usually set to music and involves performing squats and lunges.

Circuit training

This class involves working your way around a set of exercise stations, each with a different exercise for you to perform. The exercises throughout the class cover a combination of strengthening and cardiovascular with each exercise being performed for a set time period. A good circuit class will ensure you have a full body workout.

The benefit of circuit training is that it allows you to work at your own pace on each exercise. It's up to you how hard you work. Be aware that its easy to become competitive with fellow class mates. You might feel good during the class but if you do too much you might have a flare up.

Core Stability

Many gyms will offer various types of core stability class. They might be called Gym Ball class or Swiss Ball class.

These classes tend to be low impact and focus on stability and strengthening of the muscles that support the spine. This means they can be very helpful for people with AS.

Remember to join a beginners class if you haven't done this form of exercise before. This will enable you to learn the basic principles. Performing some of the exercises is harder than it looks!

Pilates

Pilates classes focus on core stability and postural control through exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles that support the spine.

Pilates classes are low impact, using positions of lying and sitting to teach awareness of breath control, spinal alignment and strengthening of the trunk. Pilates classes could help you to maintain and improve your:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Mobility (including the trunk, shoulders and chest expansion)
  • Balance and co-ordination
  • Posture

Clinical research has shown that pilates can help improve BASFI scores, is effective and safe.

Again, start with a beginners' class.

Click here to learn more about pilates.

Tae-Bo

Also known as Thai Boxing or Body Combat, Tae-Bo is a non-contact martial arts based fitness session. It incorporates itechniques used in Thai Boxing and Taekwondo with an aerobic routine.

It develops co-ordination and balance and the flexibility exercises combine to provide a high calorie workout.

It's important to check with your instructor first as classes can vary a great deal.

Tai chi

Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that is practised throughout the world, consisting of gentle, fluid movements that are relaxed and slow in their rhythm. 

There are many styles of tai chi and the major ones are called the Chen, Yang, Wu and Sun style.  The Sun style is particularly well suited to people with AS but other syles may well be suitable too.

Research evidence suggests that people undertaking a regular tai chi programme can show significant improvements in areas such as balance, flexibility, posture, muscle strength, breathing control, cardiovascular function, mental state and even disease activity. 

Spinning

Spinning is a low impact aerobic form of exercise performed on a specially designed static bike. This exercise class is normally set to music designed to motivate you and make you work hard. It's not simply sitting on a bike and gently peddling. The instructor talks you through a series of different cycling techniques, speeds and gradients by getting you to set different amounts of resistance on your bike. The class offers a very high level of aerobic workout and can burn up a lot of calories.

Spinning involves a lot of leg movements that could irritate any knee and hip pain. The class does not work all leg muscles equally so it would be important to include other forms of strengthening exercise into your weekly exercise programme.

After the class it is important that you stretch yourself out as the class will involve spending time in a hunched position.

Water aerobics/Aqua fit/Aqua aerobics

This form of exercise class involves a full aerobic workout in the shallow end of a swimming pool. The class gives a full body workout for cardiovascular fitness, joint movement and stretching but has the added advantage of placing little stress on the body's joints - an essential benefit to those with AS.

A standard class involves exercise movements similar to those performed in a normal land aerobics class but can often make you work harder as you have the resistance of the water to work against.

Water volleyball

If you can find a water volleyball class or team which aimed at beginners and which isn't too highly competitive, the sport can have real benefits for people with AS.

Taking part in water volleyball games can help with extending the mobility in your arms and back. It's also good for improving your cardiovascular strength and helping with chest expansion.

Yoga

Yoga classes include exercises and postures that aim at maintaining balance in the body through strength and flexibility.

There are many different forms of yoga so a range of exercises can be performed. Some different forms of yoga include:

Hatha is perhaps the most relevant to people with AS as it uses a combination of stretches, postures and poses that are beneficial. It is slow paced.

Vinyasa is a more vigorous form of yoga involving a series of poses known as sun salutations.

Ashtanga is a much faster paced form a yoga, again involving a series of poses.

Iyengar concentrates on body alignment and holding poses.

Bikram takes a great deal from Hatha yoga but is intended to be practiced for 90 minutes in a room heated to 40 degrees centigrade with a humidity of 40%. It is particularly important to check with your GP before trying a Bikram class as the heat could potentially be a problem for someone with poorly controlled BP or heart problems. Take water and sip it regularly throughout the class and make sure you stop if you feel dizzy.

There tends to be a spiritual element to all forms of yoga. If this spiritual element is not of interest do not let this put you off as many people do yoga simply to gain the benefits of a low impact exercise.

Last reviewed: July 2014