Our society tends to underestimate the abilities of seniors and the accessibility of a movement system like Pilates for older adults. People are often surprised when I tell them that approximately 1 out of 3 of my students is in their 60s and 70s. Some are avid runners, skiers or cyclists, while others are getting started or renewing their commitment to wellness.
Whether participating in triathlons, serving as a dedicated volunteer in the Portland community, or spending lots of time with grandchildren, seniors’ are leading more active lifestyles that demand greater mobility.
Pilates can help:
- Strengthen and lengthening muscles
- Lubricate joints
- Encourage an aligned spine,
- Promote flexibility and balance
- Coordinate movements that stimulate the brain
The safety factor
But the question regarding the safety and effectiveness of Pilates for an aging population is a good one given the health-related issues facing us as we age.
Osteoporosis and osteopenia, arthritis, hip and knee replacements, imbalance, and forgetfulness make us more prone to injury.
One of the best aspects of Pilates as a movement system is that it is built on principles that work for all ages and bodies types but are especially important for seniors: intentional breathing, mindfulness, and valuing quality over quantity of exercises, for example.
These are all principles that promote a safe and intentional environment.
Another great aspect of Pilates for seniors is that exercises are taught as a progression – we start where you are and build upon the movements to create greater depth of challenge and complexity over time.
Moves can be modified thanks to a number of Pilates tools that support the body in movement – the Pilates ring, balls, and springs. Many exercises have a number of variations to fit different body types, injuries, and aggravations due to chronic pain, old injuries, or arthritis.
The benefit of working one-on-one or in a duet setting with a similarly situated student is that we can move with patience and intention.
The end result is that Pilates can challenge seniors safely so that they move with greater ease, more confidence, and with less pain.