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:
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.