Physical activity affects the pain symptoms for Achilles tendinosis patients. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and their receptors have been detected in human Achilles tendon. This pilot study aimed to compare serum BDNF and soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor I (sTNFRI) levels in Achilles tendinosis patients and healthy controls and to examine the influence of physical activity, and BMI and gender, on these levels. Physical activity was measured with a validated questionnaire, total physical activity being the parameter analyzed. Physical activity was strongly correlated with BDNF among tendinosis women [Spearman's rho (ρ)=0.90, P<0.01] but not among control women (ρ=−0.08, P=0.83), or among tendinosis and control men. Physical activity was significantly correlated with sTNFRI in the entire tendinosis group and among tendinosis men (ρ=0.65, P=0.01), but not in the entire control group or among control men (ρ=0.04, P=0.91). Thus, the physical activity pattern is related to the TNF and BDNF systems for tendinosis patients but not controls, the relationship being gender dependent. This is new information concerning the relationship between physical activity and Achilles tendinosis, which may be related to pain for the patients. This aspect should be further evaluated using larger patient materials.