Pilates exercises are low impact, full body movements, that can be performed either on Pilates equipment with spring resistance, or simply on a mat. Some of the key Pilates exercises teach us to stabilise our torso while integrating movements with arms and legs, while others allow us to mobilise our spinal segments in all directions.
There is also a strong emphasis on learning to move and bear weight efficiently with good alignment in our joints. These elements of Pilates exercises lend themselves nicely to improve one’s posture, coordination, strength, and balance. As we gain years in adulthood and our bodies succumb to the repetitive stresses of daily activities and gravity, Pilates exercises that promote copious joint movements, lengthen, and strengthen our bodies, will most certainly make us look and feel a lot better!
What are the common problems we face as we age and how does doing Pilates help?
A reduction in mineral bone density is a normal part of aging after the age of 35. However, for some, this happens at a greater rate leading to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition where our bones lose density and become a lot weaker. This significantly increases the risk of bone fractures. Unfortunately, Osteoporosis is a silent condition until one experiences a bone fracture, and suffers pain and loss of movement as result. Most often, falls are the main culprits for causing these fractures.
As such, many healthcare professionals have strongly advised seniors to take part in weight bearing exercises that give positive stresses to the bone to prevent rate of weakening, and also exercises that improve balance, so as to prevent falls. Pilates exercises are the perfect answer to what this group of people need here. As we learn how to better control our trunk and limbs while moving through space, there is no doubt that we will improve our balance.
The other issue most elderly faced is arthritis and the most common type is Osteoarthritis which is defined by wear and tear in the joint cartilage. Pain, swelling, and loss of movement in that joint are common symptoms of this condition. Conservative management of Osteoarthritis involves reducing pain, improving joint range of motion, and strengthening muscles around the joint to increase support and reduce load on it.
Pilates exercises do increase range of motion in the majority of our joints in the body like shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and spinal segments. As mentioned, the strong emphasis on proper alignment of our joints as we move also helps to prevent further wearing out of the joint cartilage. Pilates exercises do improve joint mobility, and increasing pain free joint movement can be very helpful to mitigate the symptoms of arthritis.
Christine Koh, Senior Physiotherapist
What are some of the Pilates exercises recommended for Senior clients?
- Footwork (reformer) – With the stability and support of the carriage footwork allows us to stabilise the pelvis whilst strengthening and mobilising the hip, knee, and ankle joint. It provides a safe way of working on coordination, postural alignment, and strength, all of which we increasingly need more focus on as we age.
- Scooter (reformer) – As we age our balance tends to deteriorate, so we need to work on the awareness as well as the strength of the deep core muscles and stabilisers in the ankle, knee, and hip joints. Scooter exercise provides us with the opportunity to do just that working on single leg balance and building strength in the standing leg whilst actively stretching the moving leg. With the option of placing hands on the hips or even moving the arms everyone is guaranteed to have a fun challenging workout
- Swimming (mat) – One of the best extension exercises ever created! It’s no secret we all tend to slouch at times and as we age those habits might become second nature. Swimming is a fun playful way of sending thoracic spine into extension, building the strength in the glutes thus supporting the lower back, and keeping the trunk still, which strengthens the deep postural muscles.Figuring out the coordination will also create an extra challenge, and we can modify the exercise by increasing/decreasing the speed of movement.
- Side lying series (mat) – An amazing way of working on deep core muscles whilst lengthening the spine, creating space in the intervertebral disks and mobilising, and strengthening hip joints. With lots of modifications and ways of intensifying the exercises strong lean legs, stable trunk and healthy hips are just a couple of the numerous benefits of this strength and endurance series
Are there exercises that’s needs to be avoided?
Pilates is a wonderful form of movement for all of us regardless of age however certain exercises could be too strenuous for our more senior clients and therefore should be approached with caution or in some cases avoided entirely.
As we age our bones tend to become less dense due to demineralisation of the bone tissue. This is a common condition known as osteoporosis or porous bones. The main danger of osteoporosis is that it is asymptomatic and putting pressure on the vertebrae in certain planes of motion could lead to fractures. Therefore all loaded spinal flexion, lateral flexion and rotational movements should be approached with caution and modified accordingly.
Seniors with joint issues or arthritis should avoid or modify exercises that tire or strain the affected joints. The great news is there are so many effective modifications and props making Pilates accessible and fun for all ages. Simply inform our instructors before class if you have any injuries/pains!
Zoya Holland, Instructor
If you are looking start doing Pilates, we have a Private group class, every Thursday, 10.30am that is catered specially for the seniors. It’s at $350 for package of 10 sessions (specially discounted).
In addition, for seniors who are age 65 and above and looking to consult a Physiotherapist, you can get to enjoy a 10% discount. Do inform our front desk ladies during booking.