Pilates for Elders: Is It a Healthy Combination?

Posted on Nov 24, 2015

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Photo Credit: Michael D. Dunn / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Pilates has made its mark in the fitness scene, but would it also be a perfect exercise for the elderly?

Exercise has always been an important component to being healthy, which – ironically – most of us fail to comply. Fitness experts, doctors, and even your shoe brand  have long been encouraging us to be active, and yet we always have reasons to put it off. Our wake-up call often comes too late, and this is usually a bout of sickness that would have us regretting how an hour of exercise everyday would have made a multitude of difference.

But how does Pilates fare in keeping us healthy?

In a person’s senior years, is Pilates an appropriate activity? If so, how is it better than other exercise programs out there?

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What is Pilates?

You might have heard of the name, but you might not be really aware of what this exercise involves. Pilates, is a physical fitness method that was developed way back in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. It involves low-impact flexibility and muscular strength and endurance movements that dramatically transforms the way your body looks, performs, and feels.

The exercises usually target the abdominals, the lower back, hips and thighs. These are done with the use of a floor mat and certain exercise equipment. Pilates is lauded to be a safe system of exercise not only for the body but for the mind as well.

Who wouldn’t want that? The question now is – can your body withstand it?

The physical limitations of old age

The vigor and flexibility you once had in your younger years may not be the same as you get older. This is even more apparent when you fail to exercise your body regularly. So now you look for exercises that would still keep you healthy without straining your body too much.

Let’s just say, your body may no longer be too agile for aerial yoga, or it might not hold up for certain cardio exercises either. So you find something that would suit your energy level.

Pilates and older adults

A lot of older adults have turned to Pilates to stay in shape without the greater risk for injuries common in weight bearing exercises. People in this age group need to pay attention to what their body is limited to doing, and not overstretching it for the sake of exercise – making Pilates a very good exercise routine option.  Remember, exercise need to build your body, and not burn it to the brink of injuries.

This is Ruth, a 100-year-old woman who takes Pilates sessions once a week

Why is Pilates perfect for older adults?

Gentle way to exercise

For older adults, who may not have been active in a while, Pilates is considered a safe way to start an exercise program. The exercises which involved equipment provide a relatively light resistance compared to some gym equipment where even easier weights might be too much.

Provides better balance

Balance becomes a problem for the elderly which is why falls and fall-related injuries are common in this demographic. This is why building bone strength and developing stability is of primary importance. It is also for this reason that Pilates is “fitting” for the elderly because the exercise doesn’t have the same impact as other exercises do.

This exercise focuses on the midrange portion of the body, eventually working towards the extremities. In doing so, it also trains the body to maintain control around the joints.

Gentle on the joints

Another good thing about Pilates is that while it trains the body to be balanced it is also a gentle exercise for the joints which also reduces your risk for falls. To achieve control and stability, you start off with simpler movements that involve a small range of motion which gradually evolves to exercises with large range of motion.

Eventually, this helps you gain control and confidence over you joints and body. Just like any exercise, Pilates can be adjusted according to your body’s ability, especially if you are just getting started.

It trains you how to use your body better

Pilates trains you to get more efficient motion, more stamina and strength. Your body is less prone to strain and injury when you are flexible and strong than when you allow yourself to just deteriorate.

The control and stability that is developed through Pilates is crucial to improving functional movement in older adults who are beginning to lose their balance. When you decide to do this regularly, the effect is like lubricating your joints to avoid stiffness and make it more flexible.

Pilates for debilitating diseases

There have been  studies which show that Pilates exercises can give relief from debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis – conditions which affect a person’s movement and balance. Due to the controlled nature of the movements used in Pilates, it creates a huge difference for people with the mentioned degenerative diseases. It is by developing core strength and the improvement of flexibility and balance that the effects are countered.

The fact that it is a good exercise doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come without any caution, especially among older adults who may have certain conditions already. It is important to consult with your doctor first to know which activities are safest. You then collaborate with the Pilates instructor so that they can develop a program that would be most suitable for you. This will be designed in such a way that you progress by adding more exercises in your repertoire.

Exercise doesn’t have to be heart pounding and sweaty. For older adults with limited mobility, the controlled movements are perfect to keep your body “well-oiled” even with advanced aging. You have a lot to gain and prevent when you promote better balance and core strength. Adding to the fact that it also helps improve your posture.

Keep and active lifestyle and enjoy your age of retirement with an able body! Book your session with us today, and let us create a Pilates program that would most benefit you.