Is Pilates right for you?

As a physio I see the results – and problems – arising from a huge number of exercises, including the

As a physio I see the results – and problems – arising from a huge number of exercises, including the inevitable exercise fads. But there are some exercises which endure as safe and effective – Pilates is one such exercise which I am often asked about by over 60s, and it is easily one of the best.

The beauty of Pilates is that it can be done anywhere – it does not require a gym (though joining a Pilates class is recommended when starting out), and does not require a huge amount of equipment. In fact, many Pilates exercises can be done without any equipment at all.

Think of Pilates as getting the foundations of your body right. Pilates exercise are all about building the body’s core, getting it to work most effectively. The exercises focus on getting the diaphragm, pelvic floor and transversus abdominus (the muscle group behind the abs) working most effectively in concert together.

The benefits are many. With strong foundations in place, and a strong core, you will find that everything is easier to do.

A massive plus for over 60s is the positive impact Pilates has on posture, and good posture helps everything to work better, including your internal organs. The exercises align the spine and the core muscle regions, which then reduces osteoarthritis (poor posture and alignment is known to worsen arthritis).

Pilates is recommended for arthritis sufferers because it’s a low impact exercise – provided you don’t push through pain. As you develop the technique, Pilates nourishes your joints, improves flexibility, coordination and balance – reducing the chance of falls.

Pilates has a longer history than many realise, originating in the early 20th century from Joseph Pilates, who called his innovative approach “Contrology”. Joseph believed that mental and physical health were correlated.

His unique exercise approach was built on six principles, which are:

  • Concentration
  • Control
  • Centring
  • Flow (or efficiency of movement)
  • Precision
  • Breathing

How to start?

An advantage of Pilates is that you can start slowly. Joining a class, or working with a Pilates instructor is recommended because it’s so important to get the fundamental techniques correct. The right technique builds strength and flexibility where you need it, and reduces injury risk.

The commitment need not be hugely time consuming – beginning with just 10 minutes a day will make a difference, provided you are consistent. Just 10 minutes every day for 21 days will create a new, healthy habit. After that time, as you become more confident and expert, you may increase the workload a little.

Important: When commencing Pilates, go at your own pace. Aim to get the technique right, otherwise you will injure yourself.

Going at your own pace means being aware of your limitations, and taking it a bit at a time.

Most of all, try not to compare your progress with others in your group. Everybody is different. If someone is more advanced, stronger or more flexible, it is no reflection on you. Focus on the positive change you are making, and only compare you with you. Over time, the improvement in your technique, flexibility and strength will become all the more rewarding.

Tell us, have you ever tried Pilates? Did you like it? What benefits did you see?

  1. I did go to Pilates,but must have had the wrong teacher,because push through pain didn’t come into it. I just had to give up,and I much prefer the gentle form of yoga I have chosen.

  2. Ellice Cass I have tried Pilates and loved it, living in the Inner West it is very expensive and not affordable for pensioners 🙁

  3. Lost me with knees on the floor, you would need to call a crane to lift me up and a week of massaging the knees to ease the crunching. 🙂

  4. I’ve found that a 20 min combination of yoga & resistance exercises & 2 x 20 min walks, really help me to maintain muscle tone & flexibility, relieve arthritic symptoms & stabilise my weight. I borrowed videos & books from the library to work out a program for myself.

  5. I do my gym exercises twice a week and swim other days as often as I can. Some is cardio, some is resistance, some stretches with a bit of pilates thrown in too. Sometimes I get a deep tissue massage as well. I started doing it because of diabeties, sciatica and various joint issues (arthritis). I’m generally quite well and fitter than I’ve ever been. The back hurts a lot less and the joints are far more flexible so less injuries. Worth every minute of it. I’m 60 and one of the younger ones in our group.

  6. Anonymous  

    I was told if you have a weak pelvic floor, not to do pilates.

  7. I have been doing Pilates for many years now. This last year I have anew teacher, she is amazing and has taken pilates to a whole new level for me. I don’t think I could survive without this. I’m 64 and the oldest in my classes but I can keep up with all the young ones!!! My back always feels so much better after classes. I would recommend Pilates to all older people for core strength, flexibility, balance, breathing and concentration.

    • [email protected]  

      oh yes LO. I felt very strong, toned and got my flat stomach after 55 years.. Two 45 minute classes a week, plus walking/jogging/shuffling with my dog every second day and i could basically eat all sorts of stuff…but not tooo much! I Iive in the country now, and unfortunately no such luxury nearby anymore 🙁

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