As we age, our muscles weaken and become stiff. This affects our mobility, which can lead to losing our balance, developing osteoarthritis and becoming injured more easily. It happens to all of us.
But there’s a simple exercise routine that promotes strength, balanced muscle development, flexibility, and increased range of motion for the joints.
It’s called Pilates and I fell in love with it as a teen. I’ve been practicing ever since. Eight years ago I got certified and now teach people aged 50+.
As my clients will attest to, there are immense benefits to incorporating Pilates into your weekly schedule. Pilates is a therapeutic form of exercise that can improve our balance, reduce pain, increase strength and flexibility and calm our busy minds.
Plus it is incredibly accessible as all you need is a mat to get started. This makes Pilates an excellent at-home workout.
Whether or not you’ve heard of Pilates, I hope this article inspires you to give it a try. You can click here to try a free class.
Here are the top 5 benefits Pilates has for people over 40
1. Pilates Improves Balance
Did you know that our balance starts to decline between the ages of 40 and 50? Unfortunately, most people don’t think about their balance until they fall. Scary, right? You might be thinking ‘that won’t be me’… however science and years of research tell us otherwise.
Balance work is like a muscle that needs to be worked regularly to be improved. Our bodies are capable of so much if we move them properly.
With regular Pilates practice, you will build the stabilizing muscles of your body and work your core. The result is you will feel younger, more confident in your body, and avoid those nasty trips or falls.
In a study* in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, it was found that participants who worked with an experienced Pilates Instructor had a significant increase in their balance after only 10 sessions.
“After completing 10 Pilates-based exercise sessions a significant change in dynamic balance was found in the functional reach test mean scores in the exercise group.”
A common issue I hear from people over 40 is they believe aches and pains are part of the aging process. They are not! We don’t have to live in pain.
I firmly believe the saying “movement is medicine” is true: every week I watch clients who are well into their 70’s perform Pilates exercises which even I find difficult. It’s truly amazing.
In fact, in a research article, 60 participants with chronic low back pain were exposed to Pilates to see what effect it had. The conclusion was as follows: “The pilates method can be used by patients with LBP (lower back pain) to improve pain, function and aspects related to quality of life (functional capacity, pain and vitality). Moreover, this method has no harmful effects on such patients.”
Focusing on the right type of exercise, including mobility work, functional movement, weight bearing exercise and balance training (aka Pilates!) will help you age beautifully and reduce pain.
Pilates also focuses on moving the spine in all planes. When your spine is moving optimally this translates to feeling less pain through your shoulders, back and hips.
There’s a very good reason the central part of our body is called our ‘core’. It’s the muscular engine to everything we do. Keeping your core strong is key to feeling flexible, playing sports and living actively.
Pilates works your core in all 3 dimensions; front, back and sides. Surprisingly many people fail to properly “engage their core” on a daily basis. Working with an experienced Pilates Instructor you will be cue’d to actively engage your deep inner core as well as the more superficial muscles of the abdominals.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a strong core is a real game changer in terms of improving your strength and confidence in your everyday activities. When you have proper core engagement everyday activities become easier and more enjoyable.
If cycling, walking, gardening, golf, tennis or yoga are activities you enjoy, then Pilates is a must. It will work to strengthen your core, making those activities more enjoyable.
The biggest lie I hear in the fitness industry is that strength is all you need to stay healthy. The truth is strength without mobility is like a car without gas (or electricity!).
In Pilates we focus on lengthening and strengthening the muscles of the entire body. It is the secret recipe to getting you feeling your best!
In my Pilates classes you can expect a variety of exercises that work from the centre of the body outwards. This means you work to strengthen/lengthen through the core, back, glutes before progressing to the legs and arms. A low impact full body workout that is gentle on your joints and leaves you feeling powerful and flexible.
A study from 2013 concluded: “Body composition, muscular endurance, and flexibility significantly improved after 8 weeks of traditional mat Pilates.”
A nice benefit of engaging in low-impact, controlled movement is you become familiar with your body and your breath. When you put these 2 principles together you are able to be more aware of how your body moves in space.
In a Pilates class you don’t just move your body mindlessly. It requires control, coordination, and attention to precise movements.
For example if you have been sitting at your desk all day you may notice you are sitting with rounded shoulders. You now have the awareness to correct your posture and correct your alignment when sitting. Plus with your improved core and upper back strength it will feel more comfortable to sit properly aligned.
Pilates has been a gift to me. I love the way it makes me feel. I love the gentle yet effective workout I get. If you’re considering trying it, here is a free class to get you started.
Thank you for reading and I hope to see you on the mat in one of my online classes.