We often think to look youthful we only need to focus on the face. Erase wrinkles and increase collagen, right? However, youthfulness is also seen in the body through your movement patterns.
Cardio, strength training, and flexibility are all great ways to fight the effects of aging.
Here are 5 ways exercise keeps you looking (and feeling) young:
You move easily and have a good range of motion
As you age you lose muscle mass and strength—and therefore mobility—at an accelerated pace compared to younger adults. This can make simple tasks like bending over or tying your shoes harder. It also increases your risk for injuries such as hip fractures due to decreased bone density (osteoporosis).
Working to keep your joints mobilized will help you move with more ease but also ensures you are less likely to injure yourself.
When your joints move with ease it helps you perform daily activities with less effort and therefore you’re less likely to pull, strain or fracture a bone. Plus, moving gracefully is a sign of youth.
This is where Pilates comes in. Practicing Pilates keeps you strong and flexible, so you will feel better and move more easily. How? By focusing on dynamic stretching and building stability throughout the body. Dynamic stretching is another way of saying stretching with movement which our joints love! While building stability can help to create more mobility and ease of movement throughout the body. Many times tight muscles are weak muscles that need to be strengthened to move better.
Improves your balance and agility
Another great benefit of exercise (specifically Pilates!) is that it helps improve your balance by focusing on firing up the deep stabilizing muscles throughout your body. You need these muscles to keep balanced. A healthy, balanced body is a work in progress as you get older. The saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” applies to everyone’s balance, regardless of your DNA.
Did you know falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide? Bottom line: it pays off to practice your balance as you age.
In addition to improving your balance and strengthening the muscles in your legs and core, regular exercise will also make you more coordinated. Your reactions will be quicker (aka agility), allowing you to catch yourself before a fall or accident happens.
Ultimately, good balance means you move more gracefully, keeping you steady on your feet and making you less prone to nasty trips and falls.
Improves your posture
Your posture is one of the first things people notice about you.
Improving your posture can help relieve back and neck pain and make you feel more confident. Here are some tips to improve your posture:
Stand up straight while sitting down. If you’re at a desk all day, keep this in mind: Slouching in your chair makes muscles tighten up and puts stress on joints that aren’t meant to be used in that way.
Keep shoulders back and head held high. Don’t let them sag forward or slouch like a hunchback—think of someone who’s proud of themselves! Try this simple trick when standing or walking around: think of your shoulder blades gliding down your back. Try it now… did your shoulders just drop? Ahhh… such a nice feeling!
Improved posture can help prevent aches and pains as well as back pain by supporting proper alignment of bones and muscles in the spine.
With better posture comes more energy (because it uses less effort), greater efficiency at work and play (because fewer muscles are involved), increased alertness (from improved oxygen flow) and better sleep quality (from reduced stress).
Many Pilates exercises work to improve our posture by lengthening and balancing our muscles. Here are 3 essential exercises to improve your posture.
Improves your gait
Gait is a pattern of movement that’s repeated over time. It’s how you walk, run and jump. It’s the way that you move your body in space. Improved gait can also improve balance, which helps prevent falls and improve mobility as we age.
When you work your foot and ankle joint you walk with more confidence. You have the strength and power in your foot and ankles to keep you upright and balanced. You feel confident and steady walking on uneven surfaces.
When we don’t work our feet properly the opposite happens. We develop what I like to call the “elderly shuffle”. Yes that’s a thing and if you don’t work your feet properly it will happen to you too.
Tying it all together
In my online Pilates classes I sprinkle mobility exercises, balance work, postural exercises and use light weights to build full body strength (and bone density).
This helps my clients to stay active in their daily activities; they are the youngest bunch of movers I have ever seen. Some days in class I look over and see a 75 year old performing a Pilates exercise that I know a 35 year desk sitter would struggle with.
There are many benefits to exercise, including flexibility, balance and posture. The right type of workout can help you improve muscle tone, strength, endurance as well as agility which will keep you looking but most importantly feeling young for years to come!
Christine Kirkland is a Certified Pilates Instructor offering online Pilates classes. She specializes in helping adults to increase their balance, strength, mobility and feel their best every day. Learn more about her online Pilates studio by clicking here.