Tag Archive for: osteopenia

For many of us, getting older isn’t easy. We persevere through stiffness, aches, and pains.

The good news is we don’t have to accept these “inconveniences” of age as inevitable.

The key, my friends, is lean muscle mass.  According to Dr. Allen Mishra, an orthopedic surgeon at Stanford, “muscles are modifiable until the day you die.” And there’s recent research to back this up.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Vonda Wright notes that “we do not have to be the victims of the passage of time; we don’t have to go down a slippery slope from vitality to frailty and do nothing about it.”  She states that the number one thing that can save our lives is our lean muscle mass.

Muscles play a crucial role in aging and longevity due to their impact on overall health, mobility, and metabolic function. Here are several reasons why muscle matters for aging and longevity:

 

  • Metabolism and Weight Management: Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, which burns more calories even at rest. As people age, they tend to lose muscle mass, which can decrease basal metabolic rate. This makes it easier to gain weight and harder to maintain a healthy weight, which in turn can increase the risk of various health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Preserving muscle mass through exercise and a balanced diet can help mitigate these risks.

 

  • Bone Health is a subject I’m passionate about: Muscles are connected to bones through tendons, and when muscles contract, they exert force on bones, which in turn helps to stimulate bone growth. This is crucial, especially for women who are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), one in two women over 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. Engaging in weight-bearing exercises and resistance training can improve bone density and reduce the risk of fractures as people age. And don’t forget impact exercises to “surprise the bones,” which, according to Wolf’s law, stimulates bone growth. If you do have osteopenia or osteoporosis, make sure to find a trainer or physical therapist who has special certification for working with osteoporosis. There are clear guidelines that need to be followed to keep you safe.

 

  • Leg Power Predicts Brain PowerAccording to a UK study by Steves et al 2015, evidence showed that the stronger the legs were, the less risk of dementia and the greater the gray matter in the brain. For those concerned about cognitive decline, this is an actionable step you can take. Strengthen those legs.

 

  • Balance and Fall Prevention: Strong muscles, particularly those in the legs and core, are essential for balance and stability. Falls are a significant concern for older adults, as they can lead to serious injuries such as hip fractures. Having good muscle strength and
    balance reduces the risk of falls and enhances the ability to recover from a loss of balance. Also, don’t forget that having strong arm and shoulder muscles and a strong core can help you avoid a fracture by “catching yourself” before your hips or knees hit the ground.

 

  • Functional Independence: Maintaining muscle mass and strength is directly linked to the ability to perform daily tasks
    independently. This includes activities such as walking, climbing stairs, carrying groceries, and getting up from a chair. As people age, the loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) can impair these functional abilities, leading to a loss of independence. Regular strength training and exercise can help preserve muscle function and independence.

 

  • Hormone Regulation: We often perceive muscle as something that helps keep us strong or helps us move.  What we might not realize is that muscle also serves as an endocrine-like organ. When muscles contract, they release these molecules called myokines.  Myokines have positive effects on your Metabolic system, Cardiovascular system, Immune system and your Mental function.  Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protects your brain and supports neuroplasticity essential for learning and memory. A 2023 study by Abou Sawan et al showed evidence that “increasing physical activity can affect cognitive function in older adults.”

 

  • Inflammatory Response: Chronic low-grade inflammation is a common feature of aging and is associated with various age-related diseases, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Regular exercise, especially resistance training, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can contribute to better overall health and longevity.

 

  • Longevity and Quality of Life (QOL): Overall, maintaining muscle mass and strength is associated with a longer, healthier life. Studies have consistently shown that individuals with higher muscle mass tend to live longer and have a lower risk of age-related diseases. Additionally, having good muscle health improves the quality of life in older adults, allowing them to remain active, independent, and engaged in daily activities. If you don’t have the strength to take a walk, get into and out of your chair safely, or play with your grandkids, your quality of life plummets.

 

One of the key findings from the Okinawa Japan Blue Zone is that their environment naturally encouraged strengthening. For instance, a typical home has low-lying tables, and people sit on the floor. Centenarians rise up and down from the floor on average 30 times a day and, in the process, strengthen their hips, legs, and core and hone their balance. That’s a lot of squats and a lot of function!  Okinawan centenarians tend to their gardens most days. They weed, pull, dig, and squat for one to two hours a day. In contrast, falls are one of the top ten leading causes of death for older people in the US. They have weak hips and legs and poor balance because so many of them are sedentary, sitting in chairs and Lay Z Boys.

 

A few Commonsense Thoughts

We are not destined to go from vitality to frailty

Remember, your muscles are modifiable till the day you die.  Commit to continuous improvement to create the best version of yourself every day!  As Dr. Mishra suggests,  “Exercise relentlessly.”  Do resistance training daily.  He proposes you consider resistance training as necessary as brushing your teeth daily.

You don’t have to join a power-lifting club to maintain your muscle.  Just begin today to do some form of resistance training if you’re able. Work with a physical therapist or trainer to help you develop a customized strength training program regardless of your age. Dr. Mishra notes that the higher the weight, the more susceptible you might be to injury, like tearing a tendon. Instead, it’s more important to be consistent.

Here are some simple strength exercises you could begin today.

  • 💪 Biceps curls with hand weights that challenge you without strain. Emphasize slowing down the unfolding (eccentric phase) of the exercise. 8-10 reps

 

 

  • Triceps kickbacks with hand weights, emphasize slowing down the bending portion of the exercise. 8-10 reps

 

 

  • Resistance bands. 8-10 reps

 

 

  • Planks (start with hands and knees-lifting the knees just off the ground, spine straight) Hold 10-15 sec.

 

 

  • Chair Squats (sit-to-stand) Emphasize slowing the descent to the chair to build more control and strength. Start with five reps twice a day and build from there.

 

Muscles are not just about strength and appearance; they are vital for overall health, mobility, and longevity. To get optimal results, be consistent and take responsibility for showing up for yourself, even if you’re working with a trainer or PT.

One tip Dr. Mishra provided was this: even 8 minutes a day of strength training makes a difference!

If you’re short on time, the BoneSmart Burst™ subscription might be the answer. These 5 to 10-minute bone-safe workouts, designed by a physical therapist, are a great way to start your day or break up a day of too much sitting.  Participants say these bone-safe exercise bursts are “bite-sized enough to be doable with a busy schedule” and “the variety is great!”

In conclusion, to promote healthy aging and improve longevity, take agency for your own progress and modify your muscles with consistency and conviction.

 

Exercise can feel like drudgery when you frame it as something you “have to do” rather than something you “get to do.”

As a movement educator and motivator, I’m always searching for ways to infuse joy into the classes I teach. Why? Because it makes it fun. If movement isn’t fun, why do it?  It should feel good and help change your outlook in some way.

The way I teach is informed by science and research. I’m particularly influenced by the research findings of Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and author of “The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage.”

Across cultures and ages, there are specific movements that both express and elicit joy. Think about hitting a goal, winning a race, or accomplishing something important to you. The universal physical sign for joy is arms thrown overhead in the air. This is seen with young and old, internationally, and even with blind people who’ve never visually seen that movement. It’s a universal physical manifestation of an emotion.

 

 

 

If we listen to music in a group, we might notice people swaying their arms overhead, often in unison, expressing joy and connection.

The feelings you derive from a class can have lasting positive effects. For instance, if you felt strong and capable during certain exercises when you encounter a challenge later in the day, you are already armed with the sense that you are strong enough to handle it. You’ve altered your outlook even outside of class. That’s a powerful way to use movement to foster a positive mental state.

 

Celebrate what you CAN Do!

Sometimes we become so focused on our limitations that we forget to celebrate what we CAN do! Maybe it’s just moving to your favorite music in a way that makes you smile. That’s an absolutely legitimate form of exercise, and you should incorporate whatever kind of movement brings you joy. Movement in any form should be viewed as a gift to celebrate.

Try these Incentives

Use one of these three ideas to feel good during movement: music, nature, and/or people.

Add some motivating music. According to McGonigal, music is a “powerful evoker of joy” and can help release endorphins and dopamine. Endorphins and dopamine are both chemicals in your body that make you happy, but they function in different ways. Endorphins relieve pain naturally. When they attach to your brain’s reward centers (opiate receptors), dopamine (a mood-boosting neurotransmitter) is then released. For example, endorphins will naturally help soothe a runner’s achy muscles.

 

 

“Green Exercise”, working out in nature has an immediate effect on mood and can help people feel calmer and happier, improving mental health.

 

 

 

 

Moving Together
As Barbara Streisand so eloquently sang, “People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”   As a former professional dancer, I felt firsthand the power I experienced dancing, moving, and even breathing as one in a group. The sensations and emotions you experience, whether they be strength, joy, or discovery, are amplified tenfold in a group setting.

 

 

I’ll never forget my first time back teaching in-person group classes toward the end of the pandemic. One of the participants came up to me with tears in her eyes after class. She shared how deeply moved she was by being able to exercise in connection with others again, breathing, laughing, and moving together. This revelation both surprised and touched her.

Track Progress In a Novel Way

Give your trackers a break for a bit. Maybe be a little less data-driven; find a word that best describes how you feel after a workout. Track that instead to support a mindset of joy.

During one of my recent Signature BoneSmart Pilates® Standing Strong classes that I teach, I asked the participants to note how they felt before class with just one word. Some of their words included: “discombobulated, vulnerable, stiff, tired, flustered, and exhausted.”

After an hour of moving together with beautiful music and supportive cues, they each shared a word describing how they felt. These descriptions included solid, confident, invigorated, hopeful, and free. The evolution that occurred with each individual is a testament to the transformative power of movement to elicit joy and optimism.

In Conclusion
The process of moving (even over Zoom) with a joyful mindset and perhaps some motivating music can be transformative and set you up to have a fantastic day!

We are bombarded through media, with anti-aging approaches like botox, plastic surgery, facial creams, and expensive supplements.  I personally think the concept of anti-aging is BS.  We are all aging every day.  If you actually stop aging, you are …dead.   I prefer to age, embracing every wrinkle as a testament to the privilege of still being here and with it, hopefully, some added wisdom on top.  Now how we age is a choice.  Everyone makes the choices that feel right for them but I want to share with you an additional approach you can add, that works from the “inside out”.

MOVEMENT HELPS

Did you know that Pilates can make you look and feel younger?  This is all without expensive creams, needles, or surgery.  The only side effects? Improved flexibility, balance, strength, and posture! Exercise also improves your skin and complexion. By increasing blood flow, exercise helps nourish skin cells and keep them vital. We lose about 1% of our leg strength and about ½ a percent of our bone density yearly after we hit 50.  Pilates slows down the muscle and bone loss that occurs with aging.

3 WAYS TO CONNECT and AGE STRONG

Do you prefer to be guided in your movement practice with skill and a keen eye toward the active ager?

The local Aging Strong Pilates® class that I teach in Los Altos, CA,  my DVD series AGING STRONG Pilates® and my Zoom Virtual Classes all focus on those areas at risk of decline as we age. Those areas include the hips and legs (to keep us strong, mobile, and doing what we love), the spine (to prevent slouching/hyperkyphosis), and balance (to prevent falls).

TIPS TO FINDING A TRAINED PILATES TEACHER

If you want to find a Pilates teacher local to you, search for one that is certified through the Pilates Method Alliance  (is an NCPT-Nationally Certified Pilates Teacher) and who has the skills to customize a program to your abilities. If you have certain challenges like osteopenia, osteoporosis, herniated discs, stenosis, joint replacements (the list goes on) your instructor should be aware of the movement contraindications for each diagnosis and be able to create a program that keeps you challenged yet safe.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

Remember- 1x a week is helpful but consistency is key in the Aging Strong formula. Improvement is dose-responsive. The more classes you take, the stronger, more balanced, and agile you’ll be. If you can’t get to more than one class, make sure your instructor gives you an individualized home exercise program designed specifically for you. (and try my DVDs if you haven’t already)

I believe in interspersing Pilates with the other movement activities in your life that bring you joy. For example,  I love dancing, hiking, and walking my dog Chip.

Please share in the comments section below, what movement activities raise your spirits and your core temperature!

 

 

 

Written by Teresa Maldonado Marchok, Licensed PT and NCPT (Nationally Certified Pilates Teacher

Creator of the BoneSmart Pilates® Method and acclaimed DVD series

Pilates Studio owner since 1998 melding PT and Pilates in her Mountain View, CA private practice.

Ambassador for American Bone Health

Learn more at www.BoneSmartPilates.com

Have you found navigating my online booking system challenging?
I created these short video tutorials to make everything easy peasy, crystal clear!
  1. First view the “Overview for All” before clicking the video for the category of class that interests you.
  2. Bookmark my scheduling home page BoneSmartPilates.as.me for easy access
  3. If you prefer using mobile devices, download the free app “Acuity Scheduling Client” from the App store. My sisters find it easy to navigate.
  4. Always Log In whenever you’re on the site. If  you haven’t created an account you can Create an Account Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you find your butt slowly disappearing or migrating south? Are your jeans sliding off your butt?

Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, is a real thing. The good news is you can do targeted workouts to minimize the loss that people experience from increasing age and all the excessive sitting that’s been happening recently.

It’s not too late to literally perk things up.

Round perky butts play a role in aesthetics but there’s even more that’s important!

Having strong gluteal muscles gives you the power to stand up, sit down, squat, and perform all your life activities with power and grace.

Strong glutes are important for proper pelvic alignment, propulsion during walking and running, and single-leg balance support.  They also help to support the lower back during lifting motions.

 

6 Benefits of taking the Active Aging Bootie Barre class

Strong glutes help your posture and lessen back and neck pain.

Increased sitting can result in slumped posture and “dead butt syndrome”. This is when your butt muscles become inhibited and literally forget how to fire.

How does this happen?  It’s actually a common problem today.  People are spending inordinate amounts of time sitting behind their computers, zooming, etc.  Picture it, your butt is tucked under, your back is in a C curve (I call it cashew posture) and your head is shifted forward in front of your shoulders. Feeling the back and neck pain yet? With all this faulty sitting, the muscles in the front of your hip joints become short and tight and the opposite muscles, the butt muscles, become neurologically inhibited, overstretched, weak, and inactive.  Strengthening the butt muscles, back muscles and stretching the muscles in front of the hip, exercises that are included in the active aging bootie barre class, address these common issues.

 

Strong Glutes help Prevent Injuries.

Building strong gluteal muscles (the focus of “bootie barre”) can help you avoid injury as well as recover from injury to your low back, hips, knees, and ankles by creating better alignment and stability.  As an example, when squatting sometimes people will cave one knee in towards midline instead of tracking the knee over the foot. That’s often a result of weak gluteal muscles on that side. This is a common dysfunctional pattern known as “dynamic valgus” and it can be prevented with strong gluteal and hip muscles. Proper hip, knee, foot alignment is cued regularly during our bootie barre class.

Strong Glutes Improve Balance

Who remembers those old commercials “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”  Though people joked about it, those commercials depicted a real and serious situation.  Maybe it’s not an issue for you currently but having strong glutes now means you’ll have a strong foundation to propel yourself when walking, have the stability in your pelvis to balance on one leg, get in and out of your vehicle, or shower with ease and if you fall, “you Will be able to get up”!  This all translates to better long-term quality of life.

 

Strong Glutes Enhance Bone Density in the Hips and Pelvis

Strength training is the best way to improve localized bone density. This happens when muscle tissue tugs on your bones during strength training. By building up the muscles around your pelvis (your glutes) as we do in class, you are improving your muscle and bone strength as well as the stability of your entire pelvis and hips.

 

 

Strong Gluts are Aesthetically Appealing

Though not the most important reason, this is often the primary reason people start working on their glutes. It’s a valid goal to have to keep our pants from sliding down and if chasing a perky butt is your goal, I say go for it!

This class is targeted for you, in the last and best third of your life, to get strong safely and efficiently.

As a physical therapist, I ensure that you’re not using your low back to lift your leg behind you (a common error).  I design exercises that work all ranges of motion of the hip and stimulate both slow-twitch and fast-twitch fibers found in your glutes.  And, we get it all done in just 30 time-efficient minutes!  Allow me to be your guide to lift your tush and safely challenge your limits.

Sign up for the Active Aging Bootie Barre Class every Wednesday at 11:30 PM PST. Can’t make that time? Not a problem. You can purchase the class and I can send you a recording to do at your convenience!

Click here for a preview of some Active Aging Bootie Barre Moves!

 

 

 

Written by Teresa Maldonado Marchok, MPT

Physical Therapist,  Pilates Teacher, Aging Strong Activist, Educator, and lifelong learner.   www.BoneSmartPilates.com

 

 

References

BoneSmart Pilates Youtube channel Gluteal Amnesia aka Dead Butt Syndrome  https://youtu.be/YevqgbmS4K8

Buckthorpe M, Stride M, Villa FD. ASSESSING AND TREATING GLUTEUS MAXIMUS WEAKNESS — A CLINICAL COMMENTARYInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2019;14(4):655–669.

Dunsky A. The Effect of Balance and Coordination Exercises on Quality of Life in Older Adults: A Mini-Review. Front Aging Neurosci. 2019;11:318. Published 2019 Nov 15. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2019.00318

This workshop is for you if you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis or if you have healthy bones and want to keep them that way! In this 90 minute session you will discover how to move safely with bone loss.   You’ll learn to find your ideal posture, how to lift safely, what exercises help with hip and spine bone strength, and how to avoid fractures.

I’ll share my easy to remember BoneSmart ABC’s for bone health, which will be the foundation for you to live a  bone healthy life.

Bonus:

Along with the workshop, you’ll get free access to my Private Forum on the BoneSmart Pilates website.  You can ask any exercise-related questions that you have on the forum. Your password will be emailed to you when you register.

This workshop is presented by Teresa Maldonado Marchok, licensed PT, nationally certified Pilates teacher, former professional dancer, ambassador for the national organization American Bone Health and creator of the award winning DVD series BoneSmart Pilates®

This workshop is a great balance of research and information, along with exercise and practice. I highly recommend this workshop if you are 50+ whether you have osteoporosis or not. Brilliant!

– Linda A.

Purchase the workshop here!

 

Do you ever wonder how the hunchback of Notre Dame got his hump? And do you worry that you are heading toward the same fate?  If you spend too much of your time sitting, driving, doing computer work and/or texting, you just might be. Or, if you’re a breast cancer survivor experiencing surgical tissue tightness across the front of your shoulders, you might collapse your chest in subconscious protective posturing.

These activities all promote a forward flexed spine which can restrict our mobility, impair our balance and breathing, and cause all kinds of problems we don’t want to deal with—including the dreaded hump!

How often do you extend (bend backward)? Unless you change lightbulbs for a profession, I bet not very often. Extension is especially crucial for those with osteopenia or osteopososis-a silent disease of low bone density.  Decreased bone density can lead to a forward flexed spine due to common undiagnosed spine compression fractures.

Extension exercises will help to decrease that forward curve inclination. Those with decreased bone density are more susceptible to fractures, especially from falls. Upright posture is associated with decreased falls and studies show extension exercises build stronger bones in the spine. Added bonus, extending the spine just feels great!

In this workshop, discover the secrets of spine extension exercises to

  • Improve your posture and prevent falls
  • Build bone in your spine
  • Promote healthy aging to continue to do what you love

Learn how to do spine extension correctly, avoiding common pitfalls.  Experience simple extension exercises in multiple body positions, to unleash your optimal posture and bone health throughout the day.

You’ll receive a printable follow-along guide that you can also reference afterward to remind yourself of all the things you’ll learn in the workshop.

Extend Yourself!

PURCHASE HERE

Have you ever contemplated getting studio Pilates equipment for your home workouts?

What if I told you that you may already own something that lends itself wonderfully to Pilates work? This month I’ll share with you a Pilates workout that I designed to be performed on…an Ottoman!

Perhaps you don’t have the money or inclination to purchase big Pilates equipment for home use. Well I’ve discovered to my delight that my padded ottoman is the perfect surface for so many Pilates exercises. Here’s a way to do some Aging Strong Pilates® in the comfort of your home and notch up the level.

The video below is my personal quick and dirty ~15 min workout that I do in my bedroom before or after a shower about 2-3x a week. I do it in my underwear for maximum skin to leather traction so I have good grip and don’t slide. Some of the exercises are extremely challenging so proceed with caution. They are safe but difficult, so listen to your body and proceed at a level and pace that matches where you are today.

At the end of this blog post I’ve included a full written list of the exercises so you can print it and repeat on your own with your choice of music.

Note: Your ottoman should not be on wheels or have a base that swivels.

My ottoman has a slope to it. Depending on the direction your lying on it, the slope can make a particular exercise easier or harder. If your ottoman is sloped, try and drape yourself on it in the same angle I do in the video. I demonstrate the exercises at the angle that facilitates each movement.

For example, for the beginning chest lift core series I’m positioned on my back with my buttocks on the low edge and the lower tips of my shoulder blades at the top of the slope. This is the easier orientation but you’ll see quickly that it is by no means “easy”. If your ottoman is level, that’s fine as long as it has nice padded edges so it doesn’t dig into you. If you choose not to do it in your underwear then add a shelf liner to the surface so you don’t slide.

This workout includes all ranges of motion, Flexion (just from Extension (back bending) to Neutral (straight line) so it’s safe for conditions where flexion is contraindicated) Rotation, Side Bending, and Extension. I incorporate wonderful stretches after working the muscles in all these planes of motion.

I have to admit this is one of my favorite routines. It’s a Bad A_ _ Core workout that energizes me and makes we feel worked in a short amount of time!

The planks are extremely challenging but if you have stiff feet or bunions that make it difficult to curl your toes under for planks on the floor, having your feet elevated makes that part actually easier since you don’t have to tuck your toes under. Remember, the more leg you have on the ottoman, the easier it will be, so position yourself wisely.

 

The two sections that I do face down (opposite arm and leg reach, swimming and swan) are great for strengthening the muscles that strengthen the hips and support good posture. Firing those upper back muscles has the added benefit of stimulating bone growth in the spine.

 

Here’s a full list of the exercises so you can repeat them on your own with your favorite music. Note that as you see in the video – you don’t have to do a lot of repetitions to make it count. If you want to get feedback from me on your technique, purchase a 30 minute online Skype session and I’ll ensure you’re moving safely and effectively!

Go slowly. Be Precise. Breathe. Have fun!

Ottoman Pilates Exercise List

On your Back (face up)

  • Big X Stretch
  • Chest Lift Series
    • Center
    • Oblique twisting toward the lifted tabletop leg
    • Advanced: knees lift, lift, lower, lower, alternating lead leg
  • Finish with Big X Stretch to lengthen the abdominals

On Your Belly

  • Opposite Arm leg reach (ottoman under pelvis and belly)
  • Swimming
  • Final extension hands interlaced reaching toward feet-rotating head as you breathe w/ease
  • Child’s pose/Rest position (knees open wide if you have osteoporosis or herniated discs)

Side Lying

  • Leg lifts (bottom foot on floor, top leg lifts and lowers) Waist positioned at middle of ottoman
  • Side Kick top leg, keep hips stacked vertically.    Shift body so hips at middle of ottoman
  • Hover body parallel to floor and hold (head in line with spine)
  • Top leg lifts and lowers
  • Side-Lying Stretch (shift yourself so it’s comfortable for you, grab top wrist with bottom hand)

Repeat above on the other side

Face Down

  • Planks (first with lower thigh and shin on ottoman) Hold position
  • Add pushups if desired
  • Walk further out so less leg on the ottoman-increased challenge
  • Side Plank (one on each side-move slowly and hold/breathe)

Face Down

  • Swan (begin with breasts/chest hanging over the front edge, hands on the floor, feet on floor against base of the wall) Activate core and legs then Inhale as  you rise, Exhale as you lower
  • Child pose/rest position

 

 

Imagine a studio in 2004 at the El Camino YMCA filled with tiny dancers wiggling joyously as their hair bounces wildly to the beat of the music. With smiles beaming on their six-year-old faces, they giggle while holding hands and twirling in circles. To the side is another beautiful, highly active child. This child is different. She has yet to learn how to talk, loud sounds make her prone to outbursts, and rather than controlled little arms, they often flail, accidentally hitting some of the other children. Integrating this precious child is a challenge, for in the eyes of the others, she is not like them. But as the weeks progress, the children begin to see her as one of their own, one to protect and love. The child’s mom looked on and wished all children like hers could have an experience like this—an experience where they feel cared for, accepted, and free. Oh, the beauty of childhood innocence when looking beyond the visual and embracing not just the person, but the soul.

Today there is a space where young and old alike gather to experience the same joy of movement to music with no judgment, no criticism, and no fear. All levels learn at their own pace and are given the freedom to express themselves with no preconceived idea for perfection. This all-inclusive setting has parents dancing with their child with special needs alongside those labeled “normal.” All feel welcomed, included, and safe. This is pure magic—this is Dance for All.

In 2014, Teresa Maldonado Marchok and Mercy Forde, both fitness instructors, teamed up to create this delightful program. As fitness enthusiasts, they know firsthand how important physical activity is for everybody, no matter what age. As mothers to special needs children, they found it difficult to find classes for their children that were not separate from the community because of their challenges. Their children, just like all children, brimming with equal capability. All they needed was an opportunity to participate. And so, Dance for All was born.

The dance class is run similar to other fitness classes, with Teresa and Mercy demonstrating and instructing a variety of movements and techniques that develop and improve core strength, flexibility, and balance. Students not only learn current dance moves in rhythm with the latest music, but there’s also Pilates mat work, and a closing meditation that allows all to center themselves before leaving the studio. Participants are not only welcome but encouraged to interpret the moves as the music flows. Though they might not all be synchronized, they are all united in spirit and fun.

The program’s mission is “Connecting the Community through Movement,” and this inclusive class allows the unique twofold beauty of the program to shine. First, Dance for All gives the special needs participant the tools to conduct themselves in a movement class, thus enabling integration into other classes as well as a sense of belonging to society as a whole. Second, the class creates a fun environment for the typical fitness participant to learn more about and interact with this precious sub-set. Despite initial perceived differences in thought process and language, the typical student begins to see that each member of the class has dreams and desires, just like anyone.

Dance for All is celebrating its fifth anniversary. What started as a dream has morphed into a beautiful weekly event and a studio packed with participants. Whether dancers come alone or with their children, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Margie Pfister, who attends class with her adult daughter Ellen, summed up their experience, which many can relate to.   “Amidst the ups and downs of our days, Dance for All has been a positive welcoming spot from the moment we entered the class and are greeted by name.

Through the warm-ups, dance, and cool-down, my daughter and I are inspired to be our best as we encourage others to do as well. With the positive music, and Teresa’s and Mercy’s kind encouragement, we not only feel a sense of belonging, but our posture has improved in our daily activities. By the end of class, we feel a sense of accomplishment, have met new friends, and this world feels like a better place, and we feel better in it.”


As for that bright-eyed child in that dance class so long ago, she is Teresa’s twenty-year-old daughter, Katelyn, and I was privileged to be her dance teacher. Today, she takes all kinds of classes at the YMCA and is a joy to watch as her face still beams while dancing. How fortunate is our community to embrace such a program where students come together as equals and friends. Just as Margie said, this experience makes the world feel like a better place, and all feel better in it.

 

If you want to participate in a joyful experience, come check out Dance for All every Saturday from 1:00-2:00 pm. Since the pandemic, class has been mostly on Zoom, but we’re gradually reintroducing in-person classes at the El Camino YMCA/ 2400 Grant Road, Mt. View.   Contact teresa@pilateswithteresa.com to be added to our mailing list and to confirm if we’re on zoom or in person the Saturday you want to join in.

Dance for All – Ages 8-88 gather in the multipurpose room and unite to elevate awareness, promote community acceptance, and just have fun.

 

 

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Written by Jackie Madden Haugh

Critically acclaimed published author, former columnist for The Los Altos Town Crier,  realtor, dance instructor, devoted mom and grandma…and a dear friend.

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by Jackie Madden Haugh

 

Critically acclaimed published author, former columnist for

The Los Altos Town Crier, realtor, dance instructor, devoted mom and grandma…and a dear friend.

If your feet were on your face would you take better care of them? Our feet are a marvel of architecture, each one has 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.  We shove them into all manner of shoes, some narrow and unaccommodating, pound them endlessly and on occasion adorn them with nail polish. They need more than a pedicure! 
Our feet are what connects us to the earth when we stand.  I believe that when we have strong, malleable feet they become the foundation for a strong and stable body.  If our feet are weak, immobile or out of alignment, it can have adverse affects up the kinetic chain to our ankle, knee, hip and even spine.

You’re never too old to improve your foot health. Even if your feet are stiff now, studies show that your flexibility can be improved at any age. Give your feet a breather and walk barefoot in your home. Make daily outdoor walks a regular habit and include foot strengthening and flexibility exercises into your routine. All 3 of my DVD’s include standing and resistance band exercises that improve the strength of your feet and the malleability of your ankles.  

In my first DVD, BoneSmart Pilates: Exercise to Prevent or Reverse Osteoporosis, I introduce myofascial release of the feet using custom cut 1/2 tennis balls. The goal is to improve blood flow, circulation, resilience and to enhance proprioception (the body’s ability to tell the brain where your body is in space).  This is particularly helpful for improving balance and decreasing your risk of falls. The reason I use 1/2 tennis balls and not full tennis balls is two-fold.  The 1/2 tennis ball is pliable, has give, and will compress when you press your body weight on it making it tolerable for those with sensitive feet.  A full tennis ball, has less give and is more resistant to compression so it may feel more painful than using a 1/2 tennis ball.  The other important reason is that since it has a flat underside surface, it won’t roll and will not pose a trip hazard by slipping out from under your foot. That is a risk when working with a full small round ball.

BoneSmart Pilates AGING STRONG VOL I,  introduces you to the Myofascial release ball (affectionately referred to as the “purple pickle”). 

This prop kicks up the stimulation to your feet with a textured surface and an oval shape that molds to the longitudinal arch of your foot. We focus here on both a light, stimulatory massage and a deep kneading motion that heightens sensory awareness of the soles of your feet, shuttles blood back towards your heart and helps prevent conditions like plantar fasciitis. In addition, we introduce inversion and eversion of the forefoot, a gentle twisting motion, that is helpful for preventing ankle sprains and maintaining a resilient foot and ankle. 

Show your feet some love ❤️. Start your day this way and you’ll feel energized, connected and grounded!