Both Pilates mat and equipment classes in a small-group or private setting are an ideal form of exercise for the older client because it is a safe, gentle, yet effective way to progressively strengthen weakened muscles. Its emphasis on developing spatial awareness and engaging isolated muscle groups strengthens the body as well as well as the mind by teaching the client how to move with proper body mechanics. The result of this “intelligent exercise” is safer, injury-free functional movement in performing life’s simple, everyday tasks.
The physical benefits are incredibly pronounced in the older client. At 84 years old my own grandfather, without any prior exercise training in his life has undergone a profound transformation most notably in his posture, balance, and flexibility. A strong core pulled up toward the ribcage and back toward the spine creates a strong support for the rest of the torso. Spinal flexion exercises such as rolling like a ball and cat cow stretch and lengthen the spine, causing the client to sit up taller and straighter. The forward rounded upper body posture prevalent among the older population can also be corrected. By stretching the pectoral muscles to open up the chest while strengthening those in the upper back in exercises such as swan and double leg stretch, the spine begins to straighten out and the head is pulled back in to proper alignment just atop the spine.
As lapses in spatial awareness increase and bones become weak and brittle with age, accidental slips and falls are common and can potentially be fatal for the elderly. Balance, then becomes an issue of utmost importance for avoiding such catastrophes and the half and full weight-bearing Pilates exercises increase bone density. A strong skeletal framework coupled with the development of tiny stabilizer muscles such as the peroneals located along the side of the legs and those along the torso create a sturdy support system in which accidental slips and falls become reduced to a minimum. Pilates training also stimulates electrical impulses in the synapses of the brain when it sends a message down the body to move a particular muscle. This may possibly curb a fall by improving reaction time and landing in a less harmful way.
One wrong position or movement such as simply reaching for a plate in the overhead cupboard can pull a stiff, tight muscle but soft, supple muscles obtained by gentle stretching in Pilates allows the elderly client to move with much less restriction and more freedom. Exercises such as single leg circle create synovial fluid allowing the femur head to glide gently and securely within the hip socket, and results in a greater range of motion.
With a highly qualified Pilates instructor and individualized attention, regular Pilates sessions 2-3 times a week can vastly improve the elderly patient’s quality and length of life. Minor aches and pains will slowly start to diminish and walking and getting in and out of a car can become mundane, everyday tasks performed with ease again.
If you live in or around the North Scottsdale area and are looking for a reliable, fully-certified Pilates instructor, visit Katrina Natori’s website at www.thepilatesbodies.com for more information.