Here’s Why Pilates is Great for Seniors

3 minute read
Here’s Why Pilates is Great for Seniors

Looking for a new form of beginner-friendly exercise? Pilates offers a range of benefits that perfectly complement older bodies. This multi-tasking set of movements helps reinforce control, balance and strength for the whole body. 

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a system of physical fitness designed to build core strength, improve flexibility, and ease bodily pain. Upon first glance, pilates looks a bit like yoga. Classes usually take place on a mat and cycle through a series of movements. Pilates is a form of resistance training and is more focused on control and muscle engagement than the spiritually-minded flow of yoga is. 

Pilates instructors encourage each student to practice self-awareness throughout the class, and focus on their own body’s capacity—and not compare their progress with others. The quality of each movement is important in Pilates, as each action is designed to contract and build specific muscles. Combining postures with controlled breathing is also essential to this form of fitness.

Where did Pilates come from?

Pilates has been around for almost 100 years. Physicist Joseph Pilates developed these core-building movements as a recovery therapy for dancers, informed by his knowledge of the human body’s muscle groups. Pilates targets each muscle group with special emphasis on your core muscles  to reinforce strength, healing and control. Core muscles include the abdominal muscles, obliques, and pelvic muscles. 

What are the benefits of Pilates for seniors?

Because it originated as a recovery therapy, Pilates is a great practice for aging bodies. Because Pilates is low-impact the movements are easy on joints and can help improve mobility for seniors. If you experience joint pain while running or playing sports, Pilates has a low risk of injury and no age limit. Joining a Pilates class with others can empower you with a greater sense of community, and increased bodily awareness and mindfulness

If you’ve ever injured your back, your doctor or chiropractor likely emphasized the importance of your core muscles to support your back and the rest of your body. Lower back pain is especially exacerbated by weakened muscles. With its focus on core muscle strength, Pilates can alleviate back pain, improve posture, prevent injury, and improve bodily aches and pains. Core strength can make everyday activities like grocery shopping, gardening, and carrying grandkids easier.

Here’s a quote from Boomerang’s expert Pilates instructor:

“As I approached my 50s, my body started to change. Aches and pains, reduced mobility and joint inflammation were all challenges I found myself facing. Old sports injuries coming back to haunt me at the onset of menopause. Is this what I had to look forward to in my 50s? No way I said! After several years of practicing Pilates, my lower neck compression pain is gone as well as my joint inflammation. I feel that I have regained my muscular flexibility, improved my joint mobility and posture while strengthening my overall body.”

  • Annemarie, Boomerang Pilates Instructor and Movement Educator

Read more about the best exercises for adults over 50.

An older woman practices chair pilates in an online class from home

How can I get started with Pilates?

A qualified Pilates instructor leads you through Pilates movements that honour your body’s natural strength and limitations. You don’t need fancy gear or expensive memberships to try Pilates. 

  • Start with a simple fitness mat and resistance band. 
  • Try an online class. Take an online Pilates class designed for older adults from the comfort of your own home and build your own practice with a community of other seniors.
  • Look for intro packages at local Pilates studios. Many studios offer deals for the first 30 days so you can try out a class without committing to a pricey membership.
  • What form of Pilates is right for you? Whatever form of Pilates class you choose, remember to listen to your body, engage your core muscles, and focus on your own ability, rather than those around you. Some classes involve props, Reformer machines that help stabilise you during classes, or combine yoga and Pilates. Read the details of the class you’re considering to make sure it’s right for you.
  • Breathe deeply. Follow the instructor’s cues to breathe deeply as you move through a Pilates class, and don’t hesitate to take a break if any movement is beyond the scope of your comfort level or ability.
  • Make modifications where necessary. Tell the instructor ahead of class about any injury or health issue that may limit your participation. If you join a class that includes resistance bands, start without them, then add them in when you’re ready.
  • Combine Pilates with other forms of exercise. Most Pilates classes don’t offer the full scope of cardiovascular exercise you need each day. Supplement classes by walking the dog, swimming laps, hiking with a friend, an impromptu dance party to your favourite album, or an hour of walking while window shopping. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate in addition to a strength-building mindfulness practice like Pilates.

Learn more about online Pilates for seniors.

What type of Pilates is right for me?

Wherever you are on your wellness journey, Pilates offers a variety of different styles as well as modifications to suit all abilities. Try out different classes to determine what you enjoy most. Your goals can help inform your ideal Pilates workout. Here are four forms of Pilates you may want to try:

  • Chair Pilates encourages full-body alignment from a seated position to help support the back. If you have mobility restrictions, a chair offers additional support. If you’re unsure of your ability, try an easy class first to build confidence and strength.
  • Mat Pilates helps to strengthen and lengthen , with the use of props like resistance bands to increase intensity. These classes focus on building muscle strength and improving posture. You control the intensity, so you can experiment to determine your capabilities and comfort level.
  • Cardio Pilates Fusion mixes in some cardio to burn extra calories, making this a more active workout. Fusion classes flow between light to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, maintaining the low-impact practice of Pilates to protect your joints and muscles. This class will raise your heart rate and sculpt muscles, followed bya cool down. 
  • Reformer Pilates use a machine called a reformer. The device looks like a small metal bed, lifted on a platform with springs and straps to use for resistance and support. 

Get started with Pilates

Looking to get inspired, get started, or connected with others on your wellness journey? Boomerang classes are an easy way to build community and learn a new skill. Check out our upcoming Pilates and wellness classes.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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