Pilates for Seniors: Is it suitable for them?
Ageing is a fact of life. And the degenerative process of ageing starts as early as our mid-30s. There is gradual wear and tear of muscles and loss of muscle tone. As you approach your 60s, you could experience stiffness of joints, loss of bone density, lack of balance and reduced mobility in general. Although, genetics accounts for around 25% of this process of ageing, around 75% of it is based on the lifestyle choices that we make. And even if you are over your 60s, the body is still capable of regeneration with the right form of physical and mental activity, like in Pilates.
Many seniors opt for a regular morning or evening walk as their daily dose of exercise cum socialising. It is a great practice to walk, as it is a good cardiovascular exercise and improves bone health due to the weight-bearing component. But walking is an absent-minded activity as it is a function ingrained in our subconscious. To improve the pace of regeneration of body tissue what is required is an active form of exercise, which not only engages the body but also the mind.
Pilates is based on the mind-body connection. As you are continuously connecting with the inner core of your body and making sure you are in neutral, your mind becomes more alert. The constant cueing of posture and the steps that we follow at Moushu’s Pilates will invariably prevent your mind from wandering away from your body. With Pilates, new neural pathways are formed as a result of these focused exercises. This neurogenesis has a huge implication for age-related memory and cognitive loss in seniors.
And while we concentrate on the alignment of your body, Pilates also makes you focus on your breath. It is quite widely known that shallow breathing increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. As you breathe in deeper while doing Pilates, your lung capacity is bound to increase. This, in turn, has a direct impact on your stamina throughout the day.
Additionally, Pilates greatly improves joint mobility in seniors. In the safe environment of Moushu’s Pilates Studio, under the guidance of expert instructors, you can work on stabilising your weaker joints and mobilising your stiffer joints. Weight-bearing exercises are especially good for those with joint issues like osteoporosis and other arthritic conditions.
The balance mechanism of the body gets really compromised with age. Certain physical conditions and diseases further hamper it further in seniors. Thus, it is really important to work on improving your balance. With Pilates exercises which challenge your balance on unstable surfaces in a controlled environment, you will feel more grounded in your routine. And you will be less prone to injuries from falls while you are out walking in the park or bathing in your washroom.
Pilates doesn’t differentiate. You might not have worked out ever, or might have been playing a sport or going to the gym as well. You might have recently developed osteoporosis post-menopause, or you might have the beginnings of arthritic pain in your knee. Pilates accommodates people of different levels of flexibility and strength as the program at Moushu’s Pilates is designed to progress from basic movements to improve the core and gradually progress to advanced exercises. We believe that the principles of Pilates, once ingrained, can be applied to all your activities, be it a sport or your daily functions and it can improve your quality of life, tremendously.
Here are some exercises which are suitable for the geriatric population:
Squats: For mobility in the sit to stand function in daily activities
Mermaid: For improvement in lung capacity with lateral flexion
Thoracic Rotation: For Spinal mobility and posture
Single-Leg Toe Taps in standing position: For balance and coordination
Leg Work on Reformer: For strengthening leg muscles
Age might be just a number, but it is a significant number and the degenerative changes that occur with the advancing years can be delayed or curbed by our lifestyle. The aim is to age optimally, like fine wine. And, frankly, it’s never too late to start.
A writer and Pilates instructor by profession, and a lawyer by education, Tarannum is passionate about art, travel, fitness and food. She has been practicing Pilates for the past five years at Moushu’s Pilates Studio and has experienced the transforming effects of it on her body, firsthand.