Pilates for Seniors

It's a fact of life that if we live long enough our bodies and minds will age and in some cases start to fail us. As we search for the “fountain of youth”, it is suggested that the mature client should keep moving.

But what happens when we cannot do or enjoy the same activities as we did in our 20’s, 30's or even 40's?

Our bodies were built for movement, but today’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle contradicts what we need and should be doing.

Pilates is one type of exercise that could be very beneficial for the maturing client.

Anyone 65 and older is considered a mature client. While they may not be the first group that comes to mind when we think of Pilates, this specific clientele, as well as others can reap the many benefits from this type of exercise that has existed since the 1920’s.

As we get older, we can expect many changes to happen to our bodies. They can include decreases in range of motion and flexibility, cardiovascular health, strength, muscular endurance, and coordination and balance. These changes can affect a person’s ability to live independently and their overall quality of life.

Pilates can help to improve muscular strength and endurance while helping to improve cardiovascular health and concentration.

Joseph’s work centered around what we now call the “Pilates Principles”.

  • Control - Every exercise should be done with complete muscular control, each muscle working synergistically together to complete a single movement.
  • Breath - Joseph Pilates likened the lungs to bellows and felt they should be used strongly pump air fully in and out of the body.
  • Concentration - This continues with the mind body connection of being present and putting your full attention not only to each exercise but each repetition of the exercise.
  • Flow - "Flow can be described as the unobstructed channeling and the translation of energy into movement." 
  • Centering - “Centering yourself can be defined in purely physical terms- finding where your center of gravity lies.” . In Pilates, centering yourself means more than finding your center of gravity; it means uniting body, mind and spirit.
  • Precision - Every movement is done with intention and thought. There is a place for each body part and a breath to match.

As we age, our spines may become stiff and compressed.

Basic movements such as the Pelvic Curl, Spine Stretch and Spine Twist are designed to improve mobility if the spine. The “Hundreds” is a great way to warm-up the body and get the blood flowing. If you are not able to hold your legs up, other options include resting them on a stability ball or lowered on the floor. The head can be lifted to engage the abdominals, but you can also perform this exercise with the head down and using the breath to engage the abdominals as you pump the arms will still offer the benefits of this exercise.

Other exercises such as Side Kick and Leg Circles help improve hip joint mobility while working the gluteal muscles. These muscles atrophy, as we get older and can reflect in changes in our gait and overall range of motion.

While Pilates is not as accessible as Yoga, in that many say that it can be too expensive especially for the mature client, there are many options to add Pilates to your training.

 The most popular is on the specific equipment such as the Reformer. Many are familiar with this bed like machine with straps and springs. It offers support in a gravity neutral position and resistance that can be adjusted based on specific exercises. A Pilates mat class is also an option to enjoy the many benefits of Pilates.

As you can see Pilates is ideal for the elderly.

Focusing on Breathing, Control, Balance, Stamina and Core Muscle strength is known to reduce the risk of falls as well as help with shortness of breath and general weakness of the body and mind.

Providing a once a week or biweekly reason to exercise one’s mind by focusing on the precision of movements, while strengthening ones body and correcting its imbalances is just the kind of fitness activity anyone can profit from.

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