We’ve all heard the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” This saying is particularly pertinent as we age. For instance, if we give into a sedentary lifestyle, we’ll feel the repercussions of that choice reflected in our loss of flexibility, balance, strength, and bone density. Pilates helps you to age strong. Here’s how.
- Pilates targets key muscles important for balance. Weight-bearing standing exercises strengthen your core, hips, knees, and joints. This increased strength and stability around your joints will help you stay upright and enable you to catch yourself if you trip. Falling is the number 1 cause of hip fractures and a leading cause of other broken bones. A Pilates class targeted to the active ager should have a good portion of the session performed standing to challenge your balance to address this issue.
- While it’s typical to lose some bone mass as we age, it’s not normal to have osteoporosis, lose more than an inch and ½ of height, or experience painful broken bones. Not all Pilates classes are equal. If one of your goals is to improve bone density, especially if you’re diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, you want a class that’s curated for you. Make sure the session doesn’t include crunches.
It should include the following:
- weight-bearing exercises,
- balance (standing on one leg builds hip bone strength)
- strength training (as muscles contract, the tendons pull on the attached bone stimulating growth)
- impact exercises to “surprise” the bones stimulating bone growth (think stomping or even jumping if you’re allowed)
- A reason your doctor measures you each visit is to track if you’re shrinking. The reasons for loss of height can include spinal compression fractures, slumping posture due to loss of spine strength, and fallen arches. Pilates is well known for creating long, lean spines and strong, mobile feet. Pilates strengthens your back muscles, opens your chest and shoulders, and will have you walking tall.
- I recently completed a 9-month clinical trial targeting the prevention and reversal of cognitive decline, as many of you know. A key component in this study was exercise and its positive effect on the brain. Pilates was my daily mainstay. Because Pilates is a mind-body practice, you can’t “check out” during class. Instead, you need to be mentally present, attentive to every detail. Precision is key. In addition, the improved circulation from exercise fuels the brain promoting optimal focus and creativity.
- A strong body promotes a stable body, one less prone to injury. We naturally lose about 1% of our leg strength per year over age 50. We can halt and even reverse that downward spiral with Pilates.
A focus of Pilates is proper body mechanics, meaning moving your body safely. An example of this is hip hinging, bending from your hips and knees while maintaining a straight spine. This simple technique spares your spine and discs from injury.
This focus on a strong, confident, balanced body helps prevent falls which become more common as we age. We strengthen our core and arms in Pilates so that, if you do trip, you’ll have the strength to catch yourself before your hips or knees hit the ground. An added perk, the focus on activating your core and pelvic floor muscles helps address incontinence preventing unwanted leakage.
Putting it All Together
In conclusion, we want to enjoy a vibrant “healthspan,” not just a long “lifespan.” Let movement be your medicine. Pilates delivers movement that is safe, efficient, and fun. Drugs can have adverse side effects; however, consider the side effects of Pilates. Better balance, bone density, posture, brainpower, and a body that is safer from accidents!
Have you experienced unique benefits not mentioned above? Please share in the comments section below!
To book classes with Teresa Maldonado Marchok – licensed PT and certified Pilates teacher click here