Exercise is a necessary component of physical and mental wellness for everyone, but it becomes even more important for seniors. Recovering from an injury or living with a chronic condition can be more difficult at an older age and may lead to increased inactivity. This can result in the loss of strength, mobility and vitality.
The Pilates Method can be an excellent choice for the aging body. Originated by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, Pilates focuses on developing core strength, increasing flexibility and improving posture.
Whether you already have an established exercise regimen or are just getting started, Pilates can help you better reach your movement goals. Many seniors who participate in a Pilates exercise program report increased energy, decreased aches and pains, greater confidence while moving and an improved quality of life.
Here are some good reasons to give Pilates a try.
- Pilates is gentle. Pilates can offer the benefits of other exercise programs without the injury risks. Much of Pilates is low impact and performed in non-weight-bearing positions, which is especially beneficial for aging joints. The specialized equipment also supports and guides the body safely through movement.
- Pilates is adaptable. Pilates is not one-size-fits-all. Programs can be designed for the individual. Each exercise is highly modifiable and can be adjusted to address the needs of people with musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis. Pilates can be integrated with a rehabilitation program or serve as a supportive cross-training program for a favorite sport or exercise regimen.
- Pilates develops strength and endurance. Pilates exercises focus on controlled motions that use body weight to develop strength, stamina and endurance. Quality of movement, not quantity of repetitions, is the desired outcome. The spring resistance of the specialized equipment can challenge muscles while supporting joints. Pilates exercises can teach you how to activate and coordinate several muscle groups at once, increasing muscle efficiency and endurance.
- Pilates improves mobility. A sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to overall health and well-being. One of the principles of Pilates is ease of motion. The exercises are designed to improve joint range of motion. As you become stronger and more proficient in moving with control, you will be able to sustain your mobility.
- Pilates increases body awareness. Posture, balance and breathing are all fundamentals of Pilates. A focus on form and alignment helps to improve coordination and stability. Thinking about how to move is vital to help you improve functional movement, balance and posture and help prevent falls.
Find a certified Pilates instructor experienced in working with seniors and their specific needs and remember to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.
Steven Fetherhuff, PMA-Certified Pilates Teacher, is the Pilates Program Coordinator at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Integrative Care Center. In addition to working individually with clients, he has designed and currently teaches the Pilates for Better Bones community equipment classes.