While Pilates exercises are a way for anyone of any age to strengthen their core and increase flexibility, it’s particularly beneficial for those that are in their golden years. This is because Pilates can help alleviate the complications that are associated with old age, using functional exercises that lengthen stiff joints as you strengthen your core muscles. Pilates strengthens the deep stabilising muscles of the skeleton, which allows the surface muscles that move the body to be more productive.
Many older adults find that their balance, flexibility and endurance have diminished over time. Pilates can assist with all of these conditions, and will particularly improve if Pilates is practiced regularly. After 10 sessions you will feel the difference not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. This is because in learning to move your body in new ways and alignment, you develop new neuronal connections in the brain.
Specific benefits of Pilates for the elderly include:
• Assist with balance and flexibility
• Minimize compression of spine
• Maintain suppleness/posture
• Help relieve arthritis pain and inflammation without the use of heavy weights or exercising machines, which may add extra strain on the joints and muscles
• Prevent stooping
• Build necessary strength for daily functions, such as getting out of a chair
• Promotes integrity of pelvic floor which can prevent prolapses, which assists males and females
• Keep agile, assist joints
• Help to prevent falls through balance exercises and strength building.
Some great exercises include:
• Tabletop with calves supported by a chair
• Four point position
• Balance poses with one heel off the floor, supported by the other foot.
Some practical tips –
For bladder control when urgency calls: stand on the ball of one foot with knee bent.
For getting out of a chair: draw sitting bones towards each other and imagine that you are zipping up a tight pair of jeans.
To help with balance: Strengthen lower body by engaging glutes when walking.
It is essential to communicate health issues or physical limitations to the instructor before your session begins.
A 72 year old male has been doing Pilates with me now for 5 years. He practises with me once per week and tries to do 15 mins of exercises daily that I have given as a program. 5 years ago he came to me with with kyphosis (hunched back), limited range of movement and weak core strength. His exercise regime was swimming, golf and walking. I focussed on the following exercises to assist him:
• Scapulae mobilization to minimize kyphosis,therefore improving posture
• Costal(ribs) & pec stretches to open up chest
• Strength work for core, especially obilquies
• Stretches for tight hamstrings,whilst working traverse abs.
He initially found most Pilates exercises difficult. However, he was determined and persistent, and after 3 months his height increased 2cm. After 5 years his height increased 5cm. He enjoyed the challenge.