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Exercise of the Month: STOTT PILATES® Active Aging Functional Flow on the Reformer

Exercise offers many physical and mental health benefits. It reduces feelings of anxiety and depression, helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, and even decreases the risk of premature mortality and developing serious diseases.

As people age, it’s even more important for them to exercise regularly, not just for their mental and physical health, but also so they can continue to live independently.

Even moderately intense physical activities, such as walking or gardening, can have huge benefits. Older adults should also incorporate muscle-strengthening and endurance exercises into their workout routines to reduce the loss of muscle and bone mass.

Practicing STOTT PILATES® on the Reformer is an ideal form of exercise for older adults because it offers a low-impact, full-body workout that uses spring resistance to challenge, support and target different muscles in the body.

In this Exercise of the Month video, Merrithew® Lead Instructor Trainer Rouxchelle Denton-Cooke, who owns ROUX Wellness on the Gold Coast, Australia, demonstrates a series of functional Pilates Reformer exercises specifically for active aging clients. These exercises are designed to help older clients build muscle strength, balance and endurance and can easily be modified for all levels using the Reformer’s spring resistance.


  • Start with two springs on the Reformer for the supine exercises
  • If the client has ankle mobility or flexibility issues, move the carriage further away from the Jumpboard or have them place their feet higher up on the board
  • Keep an eye on their alignment and tracking so they don’t let the knees and feet cave in or out
  • When transferring weight from one leg to the other, make sure they’re keeping the pelvis neutral

Merrithew Connect has customized workout programs for every age and fitness level, including specialty plans with an Active Aging focus.

Join now and receive a 14-day free trial.

Read the full transcript of the video below:

Hi there, my name is Rouxchelle and I’m a Lead Instructor Trainer for Merrithew. I’ve been asked to share some ideas for how I program for my active aging population.

We know that exercise has great benefits both physically and psychologically. It decreases morbidity and mortality as well as anxiety, and it reduces hospitalizations and recovery times. A key factor that I keep in mind with regard to tissue changes is muscle and bone mass. After the age of 60, there’s a decrease in strength and muscle mass. And so my program today will include muscle strength and endurance-type exercises.

For bone mass, this declines slowly after peaking between the ages of 20 and 30. This is greatly affected by different factors, which is why there is such a discrepancy, but it depends on things like hormones, excessive exercise, diet and many other factors. It’s difficult to augment bone mass in later years, but with appropriate exercise we can reduce the loss of that bone mass by programming things like weight-bearing and strengthening exercises. Exercise also increases balance and coordination and reduces the rate of falls, which is a major risk for osteoporotic bones, so exercise is great for all of our older population.

The exercise that I’m going to use as my baseline today is from our STOTT PILATES Reformer repertoire, Second Position Legs Parallel. I will create a bit of a flow around that exercise, going from a supine position to a standing position, which is much more functional and what we use in our day-to-day lives.

For this exercise today, I’ve got the Jumpboard, which is really nice for clients who feel it’s uncomfortable on the bones and feet to use the Footbar. The other thing I will offer is for clients who have orthotics to keep them on, so for that today, I’ve kept my trainers on so you can see how that works. But there is great benefit to having the feet on the Jumpboard because you get great feedback as to where those contact points are on the feet. I’ve also got a Flex-Band® for our standing sequence.

To get started, I’ve got two springs on. I’m going to come into a supine position with the feet on the board hip distance apart. You want to have the heels connected to the Jumpboard, so if your client has ankle mobility or flexibility issues, you may have to take those heels higher up on the Jumpboard or move the carriage further out so they can get a good connection through the heel, big toe and little toe.

Alignment is what we’re looking for here. Can they maintain good alignment by firing into the stability muscles? So we’re going to maintain a neutral lumbo-pelvic region and exhale to press the carriage out and inhale to return. Some key factors here are to cue that posterior chain, the glute and hamstring to extend the hip, the vastus muscles to track the patella, so it’s centered in the middle of the knee, and that the knees are tracking in line with the second and third toe. We also watch that there’s no favoring of weight on the lateral or medial border of the foot; there should be a good connection through heel, big toe and little toe. Also watch when they press away that the forefoot does not travel with them because then we don’t increase that mobility at the ankle joint. We want to see the ankle joint open and close.

From here, I will progress into some isometric and endurance work. By pressing the carriage out halfway, I can then take my fingers to the rail and the carriage to get tactile feedback as to whether the carriage is moving or not. The carriage movement should be very minimal. We have a weight transfer from one leg to the other initially to bring the leg to tabletop. The leg pressing against the Jumpboard is going to work to keep the carriage out. We tap the foot down, toe ball heel, and peel it off, heel, ball toe. We do five of those, keeping the pelvis level, no rotation, no anterior or posterior tilts. You can peel the foot on and off slowly, or go to more of this explosive movement, pushing off the board, getting that gastrocnemius to activate a little bit more, keeping the carriage as still as possible. Once we’ve done five on each leg, we’re going to come into a weight transference exercise which again becomes more functional. As I press away, I’m going to bring one leg towards me, come in, switch legs, transfer the weight across to the other leg; this is where the pelvis is going to be challenged again. You want to keep that pelvis neutral, if they struggle they can go to a little imprint.

Finding that transference of weight and then working on that endurance, by stepping from one leg to the other. That’s the sequence for lying down.

We’re going to come up to a seated position, take a moment to rest or calm any dizziness, unload the carriage, so no springs are attached. The reason is, we’re going to step into the well (the space between the rails). Press the carriage all the way to the top, make sure it’s pushed up against the pulleys. Get the client to hold the Jumpboard and step into the well.

We’re going to use the Flex-Band. It’s wrapped around the Jumpboard. Step back so the back of the legs touch the balls of the springs. The reason for that is that if the client is at the point of no return, they can sit down on the carriage instead of potentially stumbling and losing their balance.

The band is there for added balance support. We’re just going to teach a squat pattern here, a good hinge at the hip, knee and ankle. You want to make sure the heels stay connected just as we did on the Jumpboard. So as I hinge at my hip and my knee, I’m going to watch that I keep the foot well aligned, meaning equal weight on the heel, big toe, little toe. No rolling in and out on that foot.

And then keeping that neutral pelvis and spine as I find that hinge at my hip. It’s a nice easy bend and stretch, watching the biomechanics of the knee. The knee tracks over the second and third toe, bending and stretching and the shin and spine run parallel to each other, careful not to come into a plie position. After a few of those, you’ll feel that the lats are warming up because you have gentle pressure on the band there, then we can come down and stay. We have isometric work of the leg and hip muscles, we have little tricep pulses here, five, eight or 10 reps, and then come back up to standing into a balance challenge.

You can step forward a little bit here, pulling on the band as much as you need for support. And we’re just going to peel the foot off to a hover, transferring the weight onto one leg, and then place it down, so that nice transference of left to right and then watching that the hip muscles are on, the glute medius and minimus support that hip so you’re not dropping into the hip joint, growing tall as you shift that weight from side to side. You can pick up the pace and make the knee lifts much bigger.

And then that brings your supine exercises to a standing position, which is much more functional and you can still layer other movements into that as well.

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