The idea of trying something new can be daunting. For many, hearing the word Pilates may conjure up an image of a flexible, youthful body performing challenging choreography or maybe a large group of people doing lots of crunches.
The truth is that Pilates is an ideal fitness program for women over 60 on its own or as a complement to your other fitness routines.
We all have our reasons to hesitate where exercise is concerned. Sometimes we fear injury or maybe we don’t quite know where to start. Some of us may have additional challenges like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, or an old nagging injury.
There’s no magic cure for aging and its effect on our bodies, but we all have within us the capability to build strength, mobility, and flexibility to feel our personal best. Pilates is a foundation that will help people of any age develop a strong and balanced body.
The question I’ve been asked most frequently in my career is “What is Pilates?” Simply stated, Pilates is a series of exercises that can be done on a mat or specialized equipment. But it’s really so much more.
Pilates is also a complete system of movement that can be applied to other fitness programs to make them more effective. This unique, anatomy-based system was developed by forward-thinking visionary Joseph Pilates 100 years ago and continued evolving throughout his lifetime.
His original exercises focused simply on the body and breathwork. Over time, he developed and integrated various props and specialized equipment into the movement system.
The exercises have been brought up to date with modern knowledge of the body, but our growth stems from the roots of his original system and the equipment that he created. Pilates trainers certified by the NPCP have done rigorous training that means they can help support any pathology or postural issue you might have.
Whether you are trying to figure out how to move safely around a particular injury or just looking to do more of what you love like running, swimming, dancing or gardening, Pilates is an efficient, effective, and safe choice.
The gift of Pilates is that it is safe to practice regularly and will help you move more efficiently and comfortably through daily life. You will see your strength, balance, and mobility improve with consistent practice and without the “no pain no gain” mentality that typically comes with fitness training.
In addition, through the practice of Pilates, you will increase understanding of your own body and how to care for it through movement. Your body is unique, with issues and alignment specific to you.
By practicing Pilates with an expert trainer, their cues will become familiar to you, and you will learn how to move through your challenges and safely build strength.
Another key benefit of Pilates that is not to be overlooked is the connection of movement to breath. Breathing properly will support your body through the exercises, but will also organically tone your pelvic floor, deep abdominal muscles, and relieve tension in the body.
This type of mindful breathing can help relieve anxiety and soothe your nervous system as well. Things we can all use more of in our busy lives!
One of my longtime clients started private Pilates sessions with me in her late 60s with two goals in mind. To be able to get down on the floor with her grandchildren (and back up!) and to safely navigate the rocks on her beloved coast of Maine.
She has long since met these goals and continues on with her training grateful for increased strength, balance, agility, flexibility, and a greater sense of vitality. She feels very alive and at home in her body in a way she hasn’t experienced before – not even during her younger years working out in regular gyms.
She’s also happy to point out that while her grandkids are too old to play on the floor now, she can still get up and down with ease. Pilates truly can be the perfect one-stop fitness program to round out all the other ways you love to move.
The machine that is used during Pilates exercises is called a reformer. You may want to get your own home reformer if going to a studio is not possible for you. The machines come in different sizes and here are a few things to consider when shopping for your reformer.
They come in different heights. You will want to choose one that is higher off the ground if mobility is an issue for you.
These are not small things to place in your home. Look for foldable reformers if you are limited on space.
You can buy additional accessories like blocks and platform extenders.
As you prepare to begin a Pilates practice, it’s important to start with the Pilates basics to build your vocabulary and understand the concepts. As you feel the foundational principles in your own body, you will start to connect to the organization of the movements.
Pilates can be done in its most basic form gently and simply. As ability, strength, and coordination increase, we can add complexity and more challenging exercises.
Whether starting online or in our studio, we usually suggest clients start with a gentle, seated, or level 1 class – don’t be in a rush to get to a higher level. Even elite athletes need to learn the foundation and depth of the exercises to maximize the benefits.
Many people feel best starting with a private session to learn how to manage their own unique issues, but starting with classes (in-person or virtual) can be a great option. Look for a virtual class that allows for direct interaction with the instructor so that you have the opportunity to mention any specific concerns for your body.
They’re often able to give you some quick input or even customize cues or appropriate modifications for you throughout class. Start with classes that feel almost easy and try to work “deeper” in your body.
By that we mean to really feel the sensations and connections that your instructor is describing, and then progress slowly from there. This will build a foundation to safely and successfully layer in more advanced movements and help you get and stay strong.
Most of all remember, that you CAN start now. Today more than ever you’ll find a variety of online options for training in the comfort, safety, and convenience of your own home.
Make sure you wear comfortable and non-constrictive clothing while doing Pilates. Read our article about the best workout clothing for older women.
Our studio now has over 45 weekly interactive livestream classes with expert instructors, many perfect for beginners. Support the activities you love in life by getting started on your personal Pilates journey today.
Also, watch our hundreds of free videos on our YouTube channel.
What do you know about Pilates? Have you tried it? Do you know someone who practices Pilates regularly? What’s their opinion about the benefits of Pilates for older women?