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Is Pilates for seniors safe? 7 benefits of it

After watching veteran actress Helen perform Pilates at 85, you must wonder if it is safe to do Pilates at a later age. Know the benefits of Pilates for seniors.

Age is just a number when it comes to staying fit and active and it has been proven by 85-year-old veteran actress Helen Ann Richardson Khan, fondly known as “Helen.” This iconic diva, who captured hearts in the 50s and 60s, continues to inspire with her fitness and determination even after so many years. Renowned for her acting and dancing prowess, recently Helen was seen doing Pilates, with fitness expert Yasmin Karachiwala. In the video, she mentions that she has a knee problem which has made it difficult for her to even walk without support. However, daily Pilates practice has changed her life completely!

In the video, when Karachiwala asked about her motivation to perform Pilates regularly. Helen replies, “I am feeling so energetic, so alive, so happy and I look forward to this every day. I feel so good. It gives me a high. I don’t have to drink or smoke. I get high with my Pilates.I am never going out of Pilates classes again.” While this reminds us that with dedication, age can never limit our potential, it also questions whether pilates for seniors is safe.

Check out the video here:

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a form of exercise known to enhance core strength, flexibility, and posture through controlled movements. Unlike traditional workouts, Pilates does not leave you completely worn out. Instead, it fills you with energy and a clear mind while relieving stress and pain. It typically incorporates various tools, such as reformers, resistance bands, stability balls, and some mat-based exercises.

You can practice Pilates in a gym or studio with special equipment and a trainer, who can supervise you. Pilates sessions typically last 45 minutes to an hour, though shorter routines are also effective.

Beyond its physical advantages, like toned muscles and improved endurance, Pilates encourages mindfulness and body awareness. It is not just an exercise but a lifestyle choice that promotes well-being from the inside out.

Benefits of Pilates for seniors

Pilates offers a multitude of benefits, including for older adults. According to a study published by the European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology, and Education, performing Pilates may be beneficial for the health of the elderly, contributing to healthy ageing that may slow down and fight the degenerative processes associated with age. Here are 5 key benefits of Pilates for older adults:

1. Boosts core strength

Pilates is known to strengthen core muscles, targeting muscles like the abdominals, lower back, hips, and pelvis. These muscles are crucial for maintaining stability, balance, and good posture, which tend to decline with age due to factors like decreased physical activity and muscle loss. By focusing on the core, Pilates helps older adults regain strength, leading to better stability while performing daily activities and reducing the risk of falls.

Also read: Pilates 101: Celebrity fitness expert Namrata Purohit busts myths around the hit workout

2. Increases joint flexibility

As we age, joints often become less flexible, which can impair movement and increase the risk of injury. Pilates exercises such as controlled muscle stretches promote flexibility and mobility in joints. It helps older adults maintain or regain their range of motion, enabling them to move more freely and comfortably.

3. Improves body posture

Poor posture is a common issue among older adults due to muscle weakness and imbalanced alignment. Pilates exercises focus on correct spinal alignment and encourage proper posture throughout each movement. This can improve posture and reduce strain, minimizing the risk of back and neck pain.

Back pain myths
Pilates can improve body posture and reduce common pain. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

4. Reduces stress

Regular exercise, including Pilates, has been shown to have positive effects on mental health and overall well-being. A study published by Social and Behavioral Science reveals that Pilates promotes mindfulness and body awareness through its controlled body movements and breath control during exercise. This can reduce stress, anxiety, and tension.

5. Improves coordination and balance

Coordination and balance are vital for everyday activities such as walking, bending, moving the body, and other activities. But as you age, you lose strength and mobility, which can lead to poor posture. Performing Pilates can help improve balance and gait with can help strengthen your muscles.

Tips to keep in mind for older adults doing Pilates

  • If you are new to Pilates, begin with gentle exercises and gradually increase intensity to improve strength and flexibility.
  • During each movement, focus on proper body posture and alignment. This will help prevent strain and injury, especially in the spine and joints.
  • If any exercise causes pain or discomfort, stop doing it and avoid overexertion.
  • It is advisable, for older adults, to perform exercises that challenge balance and increase stability.
  • Focus on your breathing to enhance concentration while exercising.

Also read: Pilates vs. Yoga: Which one may be right for you?

Is it okay for elderly people with arthritis to perform Pilates?

Elderly people are more prone to arthritis, which is a condition that causes joint inflammation. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. One may also experience swelling, redness, and reduced joint function. It has been shown that exercise, particularly Pilates, can alleviate these symptoms by enhancing flexibility, strengthening muscles, and reducing joint strain. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that Pilates significantly improves pain and physical function in people with osteoarthritis.

woman with joint pain
Pilates can provide joint pain relief if you are an arthritis patient. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

When performing Pilates with arthritis, it is crucial to avoid high-impact exercises, maintain proper form, and avoid exercises that may put strain on the body. If you are regular with Pilates practice, it can lead to increased joint mobility, muscle strength, and overall well-being, which can help arthritis symptoms.

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