Whilst we praise Pilates for every age group, there are so many undeniable reasons why Pilates is incredibly beneficial for seniors!
As co-owners of Premium Pilates & Fitness, myself and my husband Chris have seen our senior clients' physical health improve exponentially since we opened our doors nine years ago. In addition, their mental health has improved as their physical fitness has increased.
We are always so happy to see seniors join our studios, as we firmly believe that Pilates is a ‘non judgmental’ form of exercise. It is an all inclusive exercise that is not age specific. We have clients as young as 12 years old and up to mid 70s in age and no one in class bats an eyelid!
So why should all seniors be practising Pilates? Here are our top five reasons:
1. Pilates exercises are great for senior's specific fitness needs
As our bodies age, our approach to exercise needs to be modified. Putting pressure on aging joints, doing high impact movements and performing exercises without perfect posture are just a few of the examples of things that could negatively affect seniors in an exercise class.
All Pilates exercises are gentle on joints, emphasise correct posture and are low impact. As we age, our bones and joints deteriorate over time, which can lead to increased chance of injury. Pilates is one of the only forms of exercise that puts no added stress on joints. Pilates specifically focuses on posture, which becomes progressively worse as we age, particularly due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Low impact exercise is arguably better for seniors than high impact, as it improves balance and coordination, builds strength and endurance without putting stress on joints and provides a lower risk of injury.
2. Improves Core Strength
Core strength becomes even more important as we age. Simply put, the core consists of the muscles in your pelvis, abdomen, hips and lower back. A strong core stabilises your body, resulting in improved balance, enhanced posture and better functionality of your body's muscles and joints. This results in a stronger, more stable body and therefore a lower risk of falls and less chance of back pain.
Improved core strength means that everyday activities such as walking, standing on one leg, sitting, getting out of a car and showering are much easier, as your strong centre handles the load of these tasks, instead of your back/neck/knees. An activated core makes you less prone to injuries, reduces strain on your joints and maintains good posture. All these benefits combine to provide you with the ultimate benefit: the chance to maintain your independence for longer.
3. Decreases the risk of Back & Neck Pain
I don't think I've come across many seniors who do not suffer from neck and back pain, particularly lower back pain. Pilates is almost magic in the way it decreases back and neck pain! My absolute favourite thing about teaching is when clients tell me that their pain has decreased, due to Pilates. I'm particularly happy to hear this from PPF's senior clients.
A strong core equals a strong body. The muscles of the core will do the work of daily activities, instead of the back and/or neck picking up this slack. A strong core also correlates with good posture, as the core muscles keep the body upright. An aligned body is a supported body. Good posture reduces wear and tear on the spine, improves breathing (which is connected to core activation!) and allows the body to sit or stand for periods of time without pain.
4. Increases Flexibility
Pilates improves flexibility by lengthening muscles with its controlled movements. This is a very important reason why seniors should be practising Pilates as increased flexibility allows for greater fluidly in and around the joints. By improving flexibility, muscle tightness and soreness is reduced, which in turn minimises the risk of injury and improves mobility. Enhanced flexibility can also assist with improved circulation, muscle control and balance. I have no doubt that being unrestricted in your movements would be the dream of many seniors, and it can become a reality with Pilates!
5. Prevents Physical Decline
The Sunday Mail reports that about half of the physical decline associated with ageing may be due to a lack of physical activity. Without regular exercise, people over the age of 50 can experience a range of health problems, from reduced muscle mass, strength and physical endurance to a susceptibility to mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
It can be easy to understand how seniors' physical activity can decrease. Perhaps they have tried a form of exercise that is not right for their bodies and resulted in injury. Maybe they are now scared to try other forms of exercise due to this. However, Pilates is a wonderful form of exercise for seniors; it is not taxing on the body in the same way that many other forms of exercise are, it improves physical and mental health and it can in fact reverse physical decline with its numerous benefits (see above).
We see a massive physical and mental improvement in our senior clients once they start Pilates regularly. They always say that their body feels so good and that they wish they had ‘discovered pilates earlier in life’.
Pilates is currently more accessible than it has ever been before; there are pilates studios opening up all over Australia, there are many online pilates platforms and there is more knowledge about how to modify exercises for older and/or injured bodies. Now is the time to start Pilates!
So where do you go from here?
We recommend that anyone with an injury sees a doctor and/or works with a physiotherapist first before trying Pilates.
Visiting a studio is best to practice pilates, as instructors are there to check technique to ensure you get the most out of every exercise and are performing the exercise correctly. To find out more about PPF's studio, click here.
However, if you cannot get to a studio/prefer to workout at home or want to exercise at home as well as at a studio, practising at home is great too. We have a great Online Studio Membership with Pilates, Yoga and other fitness workouts for all levels.