For the older population keeping fit is essential.
“Pilates is perfect for older adults because it does not have the impact on the body that other forms of exercise do, and is not nearly as severe on the joints as most workouts are,” says Ellie Herman, owner of several Pilates studios, and a renowned Pilates instructor and author. “It really is a gentle way to exercise. If you’re an older adult and haven’t exercised in a while, Pilates is a safe way to restart a workout program.”
Most conventional workouts tend to build short, bulky muscles more prone to injury–especially in the body of an older adult. Pilates focuses on building a strong “core”–the deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine.
Many of the exercises are performed in reclining or sitting positions, and most are low impact and partially weight-
“Pilates for older adults, particularly on a Reformer (resistance-
Increased Stability and Balance
Pilates centers on movements at the midrange of the body instead of the extremities (arms and legs), where, again, the potential for injury is greater. In contrast with other forms of exercise, Pilates develops the midrange and gradually works toward the endrange, while maintaining complete control around the joints. To the benefit of older adults, Pilates teaches control and stability in a small range of motion, graduating to a larger range of motion as they gain control and confidence.
Increased control and stability is crucial for older adults as it can help them improve much of their functional movement, including balance and posture. “As people get older, they can lose some of their balance and coordination. Pilates increases strength and flexibility in both the core and the legs, which positively affects balance. This, along with basic fitness benefits, can help them reduce the risk of falls,” says Herman. “And Pilates is also a good way for older adults to rehab from surgical procedures like a hip replacement or knee surgery.”
An Antidote for Many Ailments
Pilates also helps with a variety of age-
For lumbar stenosis there are exercises that can stretch out tight back muscles and strengthen the extensor muscles of the spine to counteract the forces of gravity that can pull people into a hunched position. Be careful, however. Any type of flexion exercise, for example, is not good for someone with osteoporosis. Conversely, any type of extension may cause injury to someone with stenosis. If you have either of these conditions it is important that you make sure your Pilates instructor knows how to modify the exercises so that you do not hurt yourself.
“The sooner people with brain damage or a stroke can start balance exercises with Pilates and get their bodies moving symmetrically, the better they will fare in their overall permanent outcome,” says Herman.
Most clubs now offer some type of Pilates program. If you are an older adult and are interested in Pilates, talk to the program director about what kind of Pilates class will best benefit you. Many clubs offer classes geared specifically for the older population. It is also a good idea to consult your doctor before you start a Pilates regimen.
Ken Endelman is Founder and CEO of Balanced Body Inc. Ken began his career as a designer and craftsman of fine custom furniture –
This article was originally seen in Beyond Fitness Magazine.