Last updated:22nd July 2016

Safety First

Check with your GP, physiotherapist or rheumatologist before starting any new exercise programme particularly if:

  • You've had spinal surgery or joint replacement surgery
  • You have any other medical conditions
  • You get chest pain, palpitations (irregular beating of the heart), unexplained breathlessness, dizziness or have lost consiousness
  • You are on medication for your heart or blood pressure
  • You are pregnant
  • You are experiencing a flare up of your AS
  • You are not used to exercise
  • You are aged over 65 or have had AS for more than 10 years

When you are exercising

Remember to seek medical advice if you become faint, short of breath, dizzy, unwell or experience unaccustomed chest pain during an exercise session.

Some trained gym staff may not have heard of AS and may not understand how it affects you. Take time to explain your condition. This short document is designed to explain AS to gym staff. Do download it and give it to staff.

Don't overdo it. Keep within your limits, especially when you first start.

You will have good and bad days where you are able to do a bit more or may need to do a little bit less.

Pick a good time of day to exercise - most people with AS experience some pain and stiffness in the mornings, so this probably isn't a good time to exercise.

Don't worry if you have some mild aches and pains when you are exercising. This is normal for people with AS. The pains should ease off after the exercise session is completed. If you have anything more than mild aches and pains that do not ease after the exercises, stop and seek medical advice.

Use a regime that involves low weights and high repetitions. Remember you are trying to stay mobile, strong and healthy. You are not training for a weight lifting competition.

Maintain a good posture with all of your exercises.

Vary your exercises. Remember that you need to do a mix of strengthening, cardiovascular and stretching exercises.

Contact sports  

Having AS means that you are at greater risk of having thinner bones (osteoporosis). During contact sports you may experience hard knocks and blows that may cause a bone to break.

People with AS may also have stiffening or fusion of the spine. This means that you may be at risk of breaking one of the bones in your spine (your vertebrae) during contact sports. 

If you take part in contact sports then do discuss it with your physiotherapist and get their advice for you as an individual.

High impact sports

High impact sports involve pounding actions, including running, which can cause extra stress on the joints of the legs and the spine. This in turn can lead people with AS to experience a flare up in their condition, that is, more pain.

 If you are already taking part in high impact exercise do monitor your symptoms and be open to seeking alternative forms of exercise if it causes your AS to flare up.

It is possible that your body's tolerance to high impact exercise changes over time and you find that it auses you pain when this never used to be the case. Continuing to push yourself in an activity that causes your condition to worsen will not benefit you in the long term.

If you are considering high impact exercise for the first time do seek advice from your physiotherapist.

 Avoid high impact sports if you are experiencing an AS flare. 


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