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For the older population keeping fit is essential. But so many forms of exercise can be hard on the bodies of older adults. Many have turned to Pilates sessions at their local clubs as a way to stay in shape while reducing the risk of injury that weight-bearing exercises may cause. With its focus on controlled breathing and quality of movement-not quantity of repetitions-many experts agree that Pilates is one of the best ways for older adults to stay healthy.
Pilates centers on movements at the midrange of the body instead of the extremities (arms and legs), where, again, the potential for injury is greater. In contrast with other forms of exercise, Pilates develops the midrange and gradually works toward the endrange, while maintaining complete control around the joints. To the benefit of older adults, Pilates teaches control and stability in a small range of motion, graduating to a larger range of motion as they gain control and confidence.
Pilates helps with a variety of age-related ailments. Arthritis sufferers benefit because the gentle mid-range movements decrease the chance of joints compressing while maintaining the range of motion around them. For sufferers of osteoporosis or stenosis, Pilates can also help. For osteoporosis the simple and standing Pilates leg exercises may increase bone density in both the spine and the hip. For lumbar stenosis there are exercises that can stretch out tight back muscles and strengthen the extensor muscles of the spine to counteract the forces of gravity that can pull people into a hunched position.
As we grow older our posture changes; we become more rounded and in most extreme cases a person may become stooped. Rounded posture will change the shape of the spine compressing the joints and may cause impingement at the shoulder joint resulting in problems when lifting the arms. Reaching up for items in cupboards becomes harder and may lead to falls. Most falls are as a result of reaching up. Pilates’ exercises will address these issues by improving posture and shoulder mobility.
As we become more rounded with age, breathing will become more laboured. Muscles responsible for breathing become weak and the ribs become stiff. The result will be a lack of oxygen in the blood circulating around the body which can contribute to dizziness and even confusion. The specific Pilates’ breathing technique lengthens the tight ribcage and strengthens the muscles responsible for breathing resulting in a more efficient respiratory system.
Falls are common among older adults and often lead to injury. Walking is a basic requirement for mobility and older people may lose their confidence if they have experienced a fall due to loss of balance or control. We rely on our senses to stand still and move; these senses deteriorate as we become older affecting our balance and mobility. Many falls are preventable and Pilates may help to reduce them by improving balance and co-ordination.