We’re all constantly told that at our age we should be doing Pilates or yoga and many of us have already succumbed to one of them. Surprisingly, Pilates has been around since the 1920s, invented by Joseph Pilates who devised the machines, still in use today. ‘My machines resist your movements in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it,’ he said. The Pilates method is underpinned by six basic principles: breath, concentration, centre or core, control, precision and flow and it’s particularly beneficial for people over 50. We asked David Kingsbury, Founder and Master Trainer and Conor Barrett, Senior Trainer at Opus in London to give us 5 reasons for choosing Pilates:
Bone Mineral Density (BMD)
Low BMD is especially evident in the older population and menopausal women who are therefore at a higher risk of fracture. The kind of low-impact strength training that Pilates offers can counteract this. The onset of osteoporosis and osteopenia are commonly located around the hips and forearms, so you may wish to try the Squat and Straight Arm Plank.
Increased Joint Health
When we examine joint health, we not only refer to the quality of the bone structures and BMD, we also consider the available range of motion (ROM) and stability available at the joint. If the ROM is reduced due to muscular tightness or imbalances, the joint can be forced to move incorrectly which can have consequences when they are pushed, playing tennis or golf, for example. Pilates works each muscle and joint through its full range of motion and so retrains the body to move correctly again with a resulting improvement in strength and posture. Exercises like the Leg Circles and Arm Circles are good for this.
Flexibility is an integral part of everyday life – from looking over your shoulder whilst driving to putting on your shoes. We regularly find that years spent sitting at desks and past injuries can lead to muscle imbalances. Pilates helps to increase the flexibility of tight muscles and soft tissue and strengthens them at the same time. To lengthen and strengthen muscle, a Deep Lunge and a Forward Bend are both good exercises.
Low Back Pain (LBP)
Low back pain is a major issue for many with the highest prevalence amongst those aged 40 to 80. LBP can be frustrating, debilitating and often results in days off work and extended bed rest. Engaging with a Pilates programme is more beneficial than just seeking medical intervention. Pain management can be improved as well as functional ability. In the absence of pain, two very effective exercises to increase both back and core strength include the Superman and Side Plank.
Muscular and Core Endurance
Muscular and core endurance are integral components of fitness. In the absence of a strong core the lower back will be vulnerable to stress. The body won’t have a stable base, or ‘powerhouse’ in the Pilates world, from which to support efficient human movement. Over a 12 week period, Pilates can significantly improve muscle strength, trunk flexibility, trunk alignment, dynamic balance and quality of life. A diverse range of Pilates movements from Double Trouble Hip Stretch to Hip Bridge, Wood Chop and Shoulder Retraction will help to improve the body’s physical function.