The American Council on Exercise reports that there has been an increase in specialized fitness programming for older adults over the past few years. A well-balanced fitness program offers many benefits for seniors because it conditions muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to help fight osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, keeps the body more limber, stabilizes joints, and lowers the risk of everyday injury. Moreover, physical activity helps enhance overall quality of life, increase life expectancy, and helps older adults stay independent.
"Pilates is a gentle restorative exercise regimen perfectly suited for most people as they recover and work to rebuild their bodies," explains Moira Merrithew, Executive Director of Education for STOTT PILATES®, a premier MERRITHEW brand.
In his time, Joseph Pilates was considered by many to be a master of rehabilitation. His approach focused on core strength, precision and control of movement. Combine that with current exercise science and you've got a recipe for success.
"Pilates works on developing a balance between strength and mobility through individual and adjacent joints. It serves to increase core stability and peripheral mobility, ensuring proper muscle firing patterns are maintained," explains Moira. "Through specifically chosen exercises, pilates can increase neuromuscular awareness and improve balance and coordination. For the practitioner, it allows focus to be placed on individual body parts as well as their integration into the body as a whole."
The Benefits of Pilates
Pilates helps bring awareness to optimal posture and aligning the skeleton to achieve this. It focuses on working in and towards an ideal neutral alignment, while achieving a functional range of motion at all the joints. It increases an individual's ability to perform active daily living tasks safely and effectively through a variety of programming options.
The emphasis on breathing allows exercisers to focus their minds on what their bodies are doing. Pilates is all about using breath more effectively so we can increase awareness and focus in our every day lives. So the ultimate mind-body connection is truly effective – benefiting most people who participate at any age or life stage.
STOTT PILATES® is a contemporary approach to the original exercise method pioneered by the late Joseph Pilates. Moira Merrithew, along with President & CEO of The Merrithew Health & Fitness Group, Lindsay G. Merrithew, and a team of physical therapists, sports medicine and fitness professionals, have spent more than a decade refining the method of exercise and equipment making it more accessible for everyone. This has resulted in the inclusion of modern principles of exercise science and spinal rehabilitation, making it one of the safest and most effective methods available.
STOTT PILATES has created "Specialty Tracks" to educate instructors on working with post-rehab patients, athletes, the active-aging population, golfers and pre/postnatal women. Reaching out to new markets can also spur innovation. In creating programming specific to rehab and post-rehab clients, Merrithew has developed Reformers that are higher off the ground (for easier mounts and dismounts) and that allow for a greater range of functional movement.
Reaching the Rehab Community
Pilates continues to be used to create positive movement experiences for those with any type of movement dysfunction. Leading pilates authorities are assisting this currently by developing specialized programming for particular populations. Today there is a definite partnership between pilates experts and rehabilitation specialists and by working together, we can bridge the gap between rehab and fitness and be able to reach an immense number of individuals who otherwise would not realize their movement potential.
Melanie Byford-Young is a Rehab Master Instructor Trainer for STOTT PILATES' proprietary Rehabilitation Program. She has a Bachelor of Health Science in Physical Therapy and has worked as a Physiotherapist for eight years. Byford-Young maintains that the rehab community has definitely opened their arms to the notion of incorporating the principles of pilates into rehab for older adults. "Acceptance of pilates from rehab professionals varies with the education and exposure of clinicians to pilates," she states.
"The Basic Principles of STOTT PILATES are consistent with the Basic Principles of Rehabilitation. We work with the premise that pilates and rehabilitation needs to address the body as a whole, not just a collection of individual parts. Successful aging is the ability to function at the level an individual wishes – requires mobility of joints as well as strength of the muscular system to propel us. The integrity of our shoulders, hips, knees and spine are all interconnected and must all be addressed when managing or preventing aches, pains and degeneration."
The rehab and medical communities are embracing pilates for many reasons based on this theory. Pilates is gentle on the joints, focuses on suppleness and strength and can be used to address and rehabilitate specific issues with the active aging. Pilates can also be practiced for preventative measures and to stay in shape after physical therapy. It can be adapted to meet the needs and goals of individuals, and thus can be a very safe way to exercise and move the body. Pilates is both a mental and physical challenge and can be done for a lifetime. "For the clinician," adds Byford-Young. "Pilates is a template for assessing clients and for giving exercises and homework."
Pilates Programming and Equipment
Although 'core training' may be a bit of a catch phrase in the fitness industry, the true definition of the term is widely acknowledged in medical and rehabilitation communities as the basis for reconditioning the support musculature of the body. Pilates as a method of exercise focuses on working the muscles from the inside out rather than the outside in. In this way, the deepest layers of muscles in the torso, transversus abdominis, lumbar multifidi and pelvic floor to name a few, are trained to protect the lower back while allowing the body to perform movements with more ease and fluidity. This is achieved by performing controlled movements, and by paying special attention to the mind-body connection.