We’ve all heard of the “Graying of America.” According to the U.S. Census, nearly 1 in 5 of the nation’s residents will be age 65 or older by 2030. More of us are living longer, and we strive to maintain and improve our quality of life during our “golden years.” Unfortunately, for many, physical limitations and health problems can accompany aging.
Regular exercise is essential to physical and mental well-being at any age and becomes even more critical for seniors. Managing a chronic condition, such as arthritis, or recovering from a surgery can set someone on a debilitating cycle of inactivity resulting in loss of strength and mobility – and vitality.
One of the best exercise methods for seniors is Pilates, which was originated by Joseph Pilates during the First World War when he outfitted hospital beds with springs to allow bedridden patients to exercise against resistance. This innovation led to his design of the Reformer, which is still used in Pilates today, even by people who can’t walk.
Whether you are already already fit or just getting started, Pilates can transform you. Many seniors who participate in a Pilates-based exercise program report increased energy, decreased aches and pains, and improved quality of life. Here are the top 5 benefits of Pilates for seniors…
1. Pilates is gentle and modifiable
Many Pilates activities can be performed non weight-bearing while lying, reclining, or seated. And it’s virtually non-impact, which is especially beneficial for aging joints. The method offers the benefits of other exercise programs without the injury risks. Pilates can also be integrated with rehabilitation from surgical procedures like a hip replacement or knee surgery. A certified instructor will be able to modify Pilates exercises to best suit the individual needs of seniors, including those who have osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, or other conditions.
2. Increases strength, flexibility, and endurance
Pilates instruction begins with an emphasis on control and stability within small ranges of motion to build strength and endurance rather than large and aggressive movements that can cause early fatigue – or even injury. As seniors gain control and confidence, they progress to greater ranges of motion that also improve flexibility and ease of movement.
3. Heightens body awareness and helps prevent falls
Posture, balance, breathing, and core strength are all foundational elements of Pilates. This attention to increased coordination and stability is crucial for seniors as it can help improve functional movement, including balance while standing and walking. Pilates increases strength and flexibility in both the core and the legs, which positively affects balance.
4. Improves and maintains mobility
During this past decade, sedentary behavior has emerged as a major health risk factor, regardless of age. It can be challenging to maintain mobility as we age, but being sedentary has so many negative health consequences, such as higher rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancers, diabetes, muscle and bone deterioration, dementia, and depression. The physical benefits of Pilates enable seniors to improve and maintain mobility, which in turn helps keep them stronger and in better spirits.
5. Lessens the effects of debilitating medical conditions
Research shows that exercise programs can slow the progress of age-related conditions like osteoporosis and sarcopenia (muscle loss) and might even help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. One 2016 clinical study revealed that an 8-week Pilates program effectively improved gait (walking) in post-stroke patients. Another study showed positive results with Pilates training for Parkinson’s disease sufferers. Regardless of the medical condition or training method, regular exercise helps seniors to maintain their independence longer – a major factor in slowing disease progression and improving quality of life.