For a long time, Pilates was considered a dancer’s exercise. Today, most people are at least familiar with the concept of Pilates. There’s a lingering misconception that it’s only useful for people who are already very physically fit. In reality, Pilates is special because it’s accessible to people at virtually every level of fitness and ability. Pilates is a great option for Boomers looking for a new fitness routine.
What is Pilates?
It’s exercise! But it was designed carefully and thoughtfully by Joseph Pilates over many decades of work. He designed Pilates movements not just means of fitness, but as a way to aid rehabilitation. There’s no need to be intimidated by the idea of beginning a practice because adaptability is a natural part of Pilates.
Pilates has six core principles: concentration, control, centering, flow, precision, and breathing. We bring those values to every movement, and together they help build a bridge between one’s mind and one’s movement. I think that’s the most wonderful effect of Pilates. The other benefits include correcting posture, healing scoliosis, sciatica, lower back pain, nerve impingement, leg pain, and joint issues. Regular practice can also increase circulation, release tight fascia (think of it as connective tissue throughout your body), and prevent injury.
What a Pilates workout looks like for Boomers
A Pilates workout combines the use of mats and specialized Pilates apparatus. You might have heard of a “Reformer,” which is one kind of apparatus. A class is not just about doing a pre-set series of moves or repetitions. There’s a wealth of possible moves to choose from. It depends on which muscles you as an individual need to focus on. Plus there are modifications to accommodate all kinds of needs. If you’re new to regular exercise, or a lifelong athlete, there’s a place for you to start!
When I meet with new clients we talk about their needs, goals, and any concerns they have. That informs the kind of workout I design for them. A Pilates instructor works closely with you to design a plan. This helps you reach your goals and learn about your body.
1. Why is Pilates perfect for Boomers?
Many of my clients come to me to help with healing from an injury caused by doing completely routine things. That tends to happen a lot more with my clients over 50. The truth is, the way you routinely do things has probably been causing damage for years. By the time you’re in your 50s, you’ve been carrying a briefcase in your left hand for decades, sitting in your right hip all the time, and slumping over at a desk for hours a day. You might not be aware of how those little unbalanced movements or poor posture impact you. Your body knows, and one day you throw your back out picking up a grocery bag.
Most of us tend to go through our days without considering what muscle groups we’re using when, and how they feel. When we’re younger, it’s easier to bounce back from small aches and pains. As the years go on we accumulate more little habits that hurt, and the consequences can become more severe.
When you practice Pilates, you and your instructor work together to learn the mechanics of how you as an individual use your body, and how you can work your muscles toward alignment.
2. Pilates brings you balance
Pilates’ ability to hone your balance is a major reason Boomers should consider getting involved. Falls are a serious concern for older adults. More than one in four older adults falls each year, and one in five falls results in serious injury. Many of those accidents are preventable, and prevention includes dedicating some time to exercises that improve balance–like Pilates.
Balance and coordination are a part of any Pilates class. Your instructor can place more emphasis on it if you’re particularly concerned about falls.
3. To embrace vitality
It’s not news that exercise is important, especially for Boomers. In fact, there’s evidence suggesting that getting active at midlife gives you the same benefits as starting as a teen. If you’re new to regular exercise, Pilates is a perfect way to start. It’s low-impact and a form of total body conditioning, so you’re always sure to keep your strength and flexibility balanced.
4. Investing in mobility
Establishing a Pilates practice now is an investment in your future mobility. If you’re over 50 and have always had great mobility, you want to keep it that way for as long as possible. If you’ve faced struggles with your mobility, maybe due to common issues like back pain or hip pain, you know how important it is. Decreased mobility is associated with a lower quality of life. Pilates’ focus on strength, alignment, balance, and posture goes a long way toward warding off pain and injury that can impact mobility.
5. To know your body
The mind-body connection that Pilates creates can sound pretty abstract, but it might be the most valuable benefit of Pilates. Essentially, Pilates teaches you how to notice and access the different parts of your body. Helping people learn how to understand and work with their bodies is one of the most rewarding parts of being an instructor. Pilates helps you to be aware of how muscles work together and how to control them. Being able to pay attention to our bodies has endless rewards, from being able to identify when something doesn’t feel quite right, to have better control over your breathing.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, it’s time for Boomers to give Pilates a try.
About the author
Adrianne Yurgosky is a certified Pilates instructor and owner of two popular New York City studios. Adrianne discovered the powerful effects Pilates had on her body and mind in college after a severe case of sciatica in combination with scoliosis sidelined her from competitive field hockey. The healing she experienced from Pilates motivated her to enroll in a certification program. After a brief detour in the corporate world, Adrianne embarked on her mission to make a career out of bringing people healing and fitness with Pilates. She’s been teaching full-time since 2009.
Check out our other Health and Wellness articles for people over 50!