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Ask the Expert: Programming Tips for Active Aging Clients

As we age, our bodies might become more prone to injuries and health concerns. This makes it all the more important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by incorporating mindful movement into our fitness routine. A 12-week study showed that Pilates is a great way for seniors to improve their physical and emotional well-being.

We asked Merrithew® Instructor Trainer Yoko Yasui for some tips on how to introduce Pilates to seniors and how to keep their sessions engaging and effective. Yoko has experience of working with various active aging clients and her Pilates knowledge and training has played a major role in helping her elderly clients lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

Yoko with her 81-year-old client Atsu Kodera

Yoko with her 81-year-old client Atsu Kodera

What should instructors keep in mind when designing a program for seniors?

Go over any health conditions or concerns

“Before starting any Pilates session, it is essential to review the client's health conditions. Seniors may have health issues such as osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc. It is crucial to consider these concerns to avoid any worsening and to improve their health,” Yoko explains.

Take time to warm up

“Seniors should take their time to warm up and control their exercise intensity to avoid getting too tired. It is also essential to consider their lifestyle and ask what activities they do most often to understand their strength and flexibility level,” Yoko suggests.

Modify exercises as required

“Seniors may find some Pilates exercises challenging. In such cases, modifications may be helpful. For instance, if the resistance on the Reformer or Cadillac is too hard for them, they can try using a Flex-Band® or change their arm positions from long lever to short lever. They can also choose a comfortable sitting position on a box or raised mat platform” Yoko says.

Try balance exercises

“The sense of balance decreases rapidly with age. Seniors can try exercises while standing or standing on one leg and using the Stability Ball or Stability Cushion to develop better balance. This can help with fall prevention,” Yoko says.

Develop lower body muscles

“Lower body muscles are essential for seniors to maintain an active lifestyle. These muscles help them stay active and prevent frailty. Therefore, it is crucial to develop the muscles of the lower body, the same as core strength,” Yoko suggests.

Make it fun and engaging

“It is essential to make Pilates sessions enjoyable for seniors. They may feel a change in their bodies and the living environment from their younger days. Therefore, having a fun conversation and creating a positive environment can make their sessions enjoyable,” Yoko says.

Yoko with her 74-year-old client Ikuko Yoshida

Yoko with her 74-year-old client Ikuko Yoshida

Can you share some tips to keep seniors’ workouts interesting?

Encourage body awareness

“Providing feedback on progress and points of improvement can give seniors confidence and inspire interest in their own bodies,” Yoko says.

Change it up

“Seniors may get bored doing the same exercises repeatedly. Changing exercises by incorporating props or different positions (lying, sitting, kneeling, standing) and gradually adding new exercises can make their sessions challenging and enjoyable,” Yoko says.

Chat and build connection

“Having a fun conversation that includes topics such as family and hobbies can make their sessions more enjoyable. When seniors enjoy your company, they look forward to coming to the studio and working out with you,” Yoko says.

Yoko working with client on Cadillac and Rotational disks

Gradually introduce new exercises and equipment

“Introducing new exercises and equipment can be challenging for seniors. It is essential to arrange simple exercises in the beginning, such as focusing only on arm movements or simple movements, and then gradually progressing while watching their ability. When introducing new exercises with equipment, consider spring tension and body position reasonably,” Yoko says.

Tell us about your experience working with senior clientele

“Working with seniors can be a rewarding experience. Pilates can help seniors keep healthy and confident. Most of my aging clients continue their hobbies, such as playing golf, dancing, singing, playing the piano, tea ceremony, traveling and more.

“Pilates helps them maintain their hobbies and stay active, which makes them happy. Additionally, they can carry shopping bags, go up and down stairs, and cook without any difficulty, which prevents the risk of injury, illness, or hospitalization,” Yoko says.

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