Many of the changes of ageing can be counteracted by various forms of exercise, with Pilates being a particularly safe option that targets systems and structures of the body that are most affected by ageing.
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. In order to achieve happiness, it is imperative to gain mastery of your body. If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If at 60 you are supple and strong then you are young.” (Joseph Pilates)
As we age, our bodily functions begin to change. We experience a decrease in muscle mass and the functioning of the nervous and muscular systems. The heart rate tends to decline, along with the ability to take in and use oxygen. These changes lead to a reduction in metabolism (the speed at which the resting body uses fat and other sources to make fuel), leading to increases in body fat.
Along with bone loss, joint problems, and other medical conditions, these changes tend to reduce the motivation for physical activity. However, avoiding physical activity can make the problems associated with aging worse. An increased risk for injury and a decreased ability to perform activities of daily living can compromise quality of life.
Pilates can lead to improvements in the following areas:
Promoting muscle flexibility can help maintain the full range of motion of the joints, reduce injury to tight muscles and lead to functional improvement.
Strength and Toning
Improving muscle strength and tone without increasing bulk is one of the benefits of Pilates. Strong muscles help to avoid injury and maintain the capability to perform everyday tasks such as lifting objects.
Functional Use of Joints
Strength and flexibility improve the efficient and proper movement of the major joints of the body, which allows for more coordinated movement in everyday activities reducing the risk for injury due to overuse and accidents.
Pilates combines practice in mind-body awareness and resistance and endurance training, resulting in improved coordination and balance.
How can Pilates counter the challenges of ageing?
Fortunately, Pilates is a safe fitness practice that can help counter many of the negative effects of ageing.
Pilates is particularly beneficial and appropriate for the older adult for many reasons.
It is minimal-impact to no-impact and can be individualized to accommodate specific injuries and physical limitations. It is especially appropriate for maintaining or restoring range of motion and function following injury or operations.
As improvements are made in flexibility, strength, and function, incorporating other forms of fitness such as cardiovascular exercise becomes safer and easier. Complementing a Pilates program with a cardiovascular regimen can be very beneficial to an older adult’s overall health and quality of life.