Guide to Pilates for Senior Adults

Guide to Pilates for Senior Adults

Getting adequate exercise is an important step to taking care of your health. This importance increases with age. By exercising, we can regain muscle, improve balance and prevent falls, and even prevent sickness and health conditions. Exercise has benefits for mental health too.

However, if you experience joint pain or limited range of motion, performing certain exercises like running or high intensity interval training aren’t ideal as this can cause pain, discomfort, and even serious injury. Because of this, finding a low-impact, easy exercise can be difficult if you’re a senior adult.

Luckily, as various forms of exercise have gained popularity in recent decades, Pilates has emerged as one of the best exercises for seniors to perform! It has a range of benefits from physical health, mental health, rehabilitation, and more. Let’s dive in!


What are Pilates? 

Pilates has been a popular form of exercise since the 1920’s, but it was actually started as a therapeutic exercise to help athletes and dancers heal from injuries.

Pilates is a form of exercise that involves focus and concentrated attention on your body movements. The movements are to lengthen, stretch, and strengthen all your body’s muscle groups equally. Pilates also requires focused breathing throughout the exercises, similar to yoga or stretching exercises.

When you do Pilates, you will do many different exercises in smaller repetitions. This allows you to work more muscle groups while still focusing on individual groups shortly.

Why Pilates are Great for Seniors

Pilates are a great exercise for seniors because they are low-impact and low-strain. In fact, you may not even break a sweat while performing Pilates. It is meant to enhance focus and concentration rather than exhaustion or straining. It’s not only great for older adults, but for any beginner!

Pilates is a form of exercise that can fit any person. There is individual attention on you and your physical capabilities, so if it’s not right, you can adapt the exercise to fit you. The exercise regimen is also regularly reevaluated to make sure the form of Pilates you’re doing are right for you.

Whether you’re a pro and have been doing Pilates with weights for years or are a beginner, there is a form of Pilates to fit you and your life! 

Physical Benefits of Pilates

Pilates are not only adaptable to any lifestyle or physical condition, they come with a variety of physical benefits too! Here are some common benefits of Pilates:

  • Strengthen and tone the core muscles in the stomach, lower back, hips, buttocks.
  • Increase flexibility and range of motion
  • Improve balance by stabilizing the spine
  • Improve posture
  • Promote equal distribution of strength on both sides of the body
  • Rehabilitation of injuries and prevention of future injuries
  • Enhances control of the body
  • Increases lung capacity due to deep breathing techniques
  • Relaxes the neck, upper back, and shoulders

Mental Benefits of Pilates

  • Promotes concentration
  • Increased body awareness and self-awareness
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Relaxes the mind and promotes calm
  • Releases endorphins to promote feelings of happiness
  • Soothes joint pain and body aches


Different Types of Pilates 

As with any other exercise, there are various types of Pilates to fit different people. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to Pilates, so don’t hesitate to explore different forms until you find a form you like the best—or you can mix it up!

Let’s talk about the different types of Pilates and what each type entails.


1. Mat Pilates 

Mat Pilates involve the use of body weight to promote strength in the core and toned muscles. This form of Pilates is more basic. It serves as an introduction to Pilates as a whole and as a simpler form of Pilates. Understanding the basic principles of Pilates is essential to progressing in the exercise. For instance, getting basic movements down, learning to regulate your breathing during the movements, and practicing focus and attention are vital to master first before moving on.

Mat Pilates relies on gravity so it’s just you and the mat. There are other forms of Pilates that use extra equipment, and while these Pilates are a challenge, it’s also possible to cut corners and cheat. With mat Pilates, cheating isn’t an option.

Mat Pilates classes can be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour long and involve you laying on the floor with a mat. If you need extra cushion for the floor or support for your head, you can bring an extra mat or bring a yoga block or head prop for your comfort.


2. Pilates and Yoga Combo 

Pilates are very similar to yoga, but the key difference is the type of movement. Yoga is a static exercise while Pilates involves instability in movements which force the body to use muscles to make it stable again.

If you love yoga and want to try Pilates, look no further than a combo of the two. Also known as a PiYo class, this form of exercises lets you reap the strength from Pilates and the flexibility and relaxation from yoga for double the benefits. PiYo is very low-impact and great for seniors or beginners exploring Pilates or yoga!

Be sure to contact an instructor or research what kind of yoga is going to be incorporated in the class. There are different types of yoga, and the form in PiYo is up to their discretion.


3. Chair Pilates 

If you have limited range of motion or difficulty staying balanced throughout movements, chair yoga might be right for you! It reduces the risk of falling while exercising and promotes your safety so you can do Pilates without worrying about an injury.

These exercises have been adapted so you can do them from a seated position. This offers more assistance and support than other forms of Pilates.


4. Tower Pilates 

This form of Pilates is another more challenging one. It requires sitting or lying on a padded mat while you lean your lower body to rest on a raised surface. While doing tower Pilates, you’ll be almost completely upside down. The only part of your body still on the mat throughout the exercises are your head, shoulders, and arms.

Tower Pilates use a spring to add resistance to the muscles and increase your strength during the exercise. This form also improves posture in your upper back and shoulders. If you try a tower Pilates class, you may feel soreness in your upper back and core.


Helpful Tips 

There is a type of Pilates for everyone, no matter what your age or physical ability! Along with the different types of Pilates, here are some tips that can help you maximize the benefits.


Find a Pilates Studio

While you can do Pilates from your own home, there are many benefits of finding a studio. Performing Pilates in a class gives you the opportunity for socialization. Research has shown that socialization is important for older adults as it reduces the risk of loneliness and depression, increases self-esteem and emotional intelligence, and soothes feelings of stress and anxiety. We all need friends, and a Pilates class is a great place to find them!


Stay Hydrated 

While doing any form of exercise, it’s vital to stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to serious health issues and keep our bodies from carrying out important processes. Dehydration is especially dangerous in older adults as our fluid reserves get smaller with age. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your Pilates class so you stay hydrated!


Pilates and Joint Pain 

Pilates are a great way to soothe and calm joint pain and discomfort. However, while beginning Pilates and getting used to movements, you may experience discomfort. Instead of pushing through the pain or letting it prevent you from continuing, a topical cream can help relieve this pain! Try a hemp extract relief cream to soothe and relieve joint discomfort. 

You can also try taking a hemp extract gummy before you go to Pilates class to enhance feelings of calm and relaxation and promote pain relief that works from the inside out.


How Often to Do Pilates 

You can do Pilates two to three times per week, and you can even switch up what type of Pilates you do each week. It’s recommended to begin with a basic form of Pilates such as mat Pilates or PiYo, but if you think your body can handle a more intense form of Pilate, you can try tower Pilates as well.

Results from practicing Pilates are often seen soon after. You may see posture improvements less than a minute after Pilates, and flexibility and balance improvements in as little as a few minutes.


Summary 

There are many benefits of performing Pilates, and these benefits increase with age. Since many older adults have joint pain, challenges balancing, and decreased muscle mass, Pilates are a great, low-impact way to promote relief, balance, and reverse muscle loss! Plus, it’s a fun way to exercise with others.

 

Sources:

https://www.actsretirement.org/latest-retirement-news/blog/2017/12/12/the-importance-of-socializing-for-seniors/#:~:text=Consistent%20socialization%20reduces%20the%20likelihood,caused%20by%20isolation%20and%20loneliness.&text=Similarly%2C%20senior%20socialization%20reduces%20levels,esteem%20and%20sense%20of%20worth.

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/pilates-and-yoga-health-benefits#pilates-explained

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086

https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/pilates-for-seniors

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