Thinking about joining an exercise class?
Get as much information as you can before you take part
Make sure that any class instructor is aware of your AS and any limitations you may have
Remember your ability to exercise may change from week to week so 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 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 find Body Balance calming. It's a slower paced class but the continued movement mean that you burn calories and keep your joints mobile.
Body Balance will work your core stability which means it is good for posture management.
This class is low impact and involves performing set movements while holding weights. Classes are usually set to music and involves performing squats and lunges.
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.
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 exercises. A good circuit class will ensure you have a full body workout.
You work at your own pace on each exercise.
Be aware that its easy to become competitive with fellow class mates.
Many gyms will offer various types of core stability class. They might be called Gym Ball 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. Check out Back to Action Part 2 for Gym Ball exercises.
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:
- Balance and co-ordination
Research has shown Pilates can help improve BASFI scores, is effective and safe.
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.
Classes can vary a great deal so do check with your instructor first.
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.
Research suggests that people undertaking regular tai chi can show significant improvements in areas such as balance, flexibility, posture, muscle strength, breathing control, cardiovascular function, mental state and even disease activity.
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. 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
These classes give a full body workout for cardiovascular fitness, joint movement and stretching but have the added advantage of placing little stress on the body's joints - an essential benefit to those with AS. Exercises are 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.
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 classes include exercises and postures that aim to maintain balance in the body through strength and flexibility. There are many different forms of yoga:
- Hatha uses a combination of stretches, postures and poses and 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%.
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.