To put a little spin on the George Bernard Shaw quote I challenge you to consider whether you stop moving because you grow old or that you grow old because you stop moving???
As of 2010, there were 40.3 million people over the age of 65. More than 60% of American adults over the age of 50 fail to achieve the recommended physical activity levels. It is estimated that only 28-34% of adults 65-74 are physically active and that number declines for people over 74.
We know that remaining physically active has countless benefits including a healthier heart, stronger bones, and improved flexibility. For those adults over 60, there are additional benefits, like the fact that regular exercise reduces the risk of chronic diseases, lowers the chance of injury and can even improve one’s mood and sleep. Did you know that studies have shown that exercising just 3 hours a week can increase life span by around 5 years?
Some people may be intimidated by starting an exercise program at an older age if they have not generally been physically active most of their life. However, there are many safe and effective exercise programs out there today. Exercise can range from a brisk walk a few days a week to a strength training program or a Pilates or Yoga class. The possibilities are endless.
Pilates is generally appropriate for any and age groups, and it is gaining popularity among people over 60. The ability to modify exercises to meet differing needs, along with the many benefits of the Pilates method, such as increased levels of strength, balance, flexibility, muscle tone, stamina, and well-being, make Pilates an inviting exercise program. After all, the founder of Pilates Joseph Pilates practiced his method into his eighties.
Some unsupervised conventional workouts will tend to build short, bulky muscles more prone to injury–especially in the body of an older adult. Pilates focuses on building a strong “core”–the deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine. Many of the exercises are low impact and safe for degenerating joints. It also positively affects postural positions and balance thus reducing fall risk.
“I feel Pilates is the best and most complete workout I have experienced.” Says Isabel Amador who has been practicing Pilates at Pilates in the Grove in Miami FL for 5 years. “I have also tried spinning and walk regularly and find my Pilates practice works out all of my muscles”.
If you are considering starting a Pilates practice and have never tried it before we recommend starting out with a private class with a certified Pilates instructor. They will be able to teach you the ins and outs of how to perform the exercises properly and if using a Pilates reformer will teach you the basic foundation of how to use the equipment. After a private session or two, you may be able to transition into small group classes.
If an age-specific class is not available, many people will find that general beginner classes are welcoming and level appropriate. A good instructor will offer cues for exercise modifications, and most classes are small enough that some individual instruction can be expected.
Saba Millares who began practicing Pilates at the age of 61 after a Total Knee replacement says. “ I have been practicing Pilates at Pilates in the Grove for 8 years now. What I like most about Pilates is that it is a very complete and beneficial discipline. In a one hour class, every part of the body is exercised, including stretching, balance, coordination, and posture. Pilates has also improved my life in ways beyond the physical aspect. I encourage everyone to check it out”.
Whatever form of exercise you choose, the bottom line is that it is important to keep moving and remember “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” Confucius.
Christa Gurka, MSPT, PMA®-CPT