5 Simple Pilates Exercises for Active Ageing

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Why Pilates exercises for Active Ageing

Pilates for active ageing can help you achieve mobility tasks you may have lost or that are becoming more difficult to execute. Ageing can be a positive experience and living a longer life accompanied by continuing opportunities for health, participation and security should be our goal.  As one grows older, maintaining autonomy and independence should be a key goal for quality of life enjoinment. 

pilates exercise for older adults

What is Active Ageing

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), active ageing is “the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. The concept of active “refers to continuing participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs, not just the ability to be physically active or to participate in the labour force”. Active also refers to retired individuals, those who are ill or with disabilities, who actively contribute to their communities, families, peers and their nations.

It’s never too late to start moving

Regardless of age, physical activity has various health benefits. Maintaining of joint mobility and preserving muscle mass can help people remain independent and active as they age and greatly improve the individual’s physical health status. Physical activity also enhances mental well-being. 

The aim of moving and engaging in physical activity is to extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life for all people as they age, including those who are frail, disabled and in need of care. 

What is Pilates for active ageing

Pilates is a form of exercise pioneered by the late Joseph Pilates that aims to strengthen your entire body evenly and mobilising the joints of the spine and periphery while paying particular emphasis on core strength. Also, Pilates exercise is low impact and therefore easy on joints and appropriate for all levels, ages and abilities, particularly for older adults. 

Contemporary Pilates based on modern principles of exercise science and rehabilitation

Contemporary Pilates exercises, like STOTT PILATES® exercises incorporate modern exercise principles, proven and accepted practices in biomechanics, rehabilitation and athletic performance enhancement. Moreover, contemporary Pilates exercises are designed to restore the natural curves of the spine and re balance the muscles around the joints. 
Therefore, the gains in mobility and strength from STOTT PILATES® can help older adults improve their autonomy. This means, improvements in their ability to perform functions related to daily living. For example, gardening, playing golf, or simple tasks such as being able to put shoes on, getting in and out of a car, turning around better, reaching overhead, etc. In other words, “the capacity of living independently in the community with no and/or little help from others”

contemporary pilates

At home exercises

Disclaimer: Do not perform any of the following exercises if pain is present or suffer from any conditions that contraindicate these movements. Seek medical advice before starting any exercise modality. 

Spine Twist

Can be done seated on a chair or standing.

How: Seated, open arms as wide as possible. Rotate as far as possible maintaining torso upright and pulse three times. Repeat on second side.

Why: Spine twist is a great spinal mobiliser, especially for the upper and middle back (thoracic), improving posture and mobility in the active ageing population. Moreover, this exercise strengthens the small postural muscles of the spine and abdominals (erector spinae, rotators, and abdominal obliques) improving posture and helping with back pain.

One Leg Circle

Can be done with both legs bent, bottom leg straight, or top leg straight, depending on person’s ability

How: Lying down, knees together one leg in the air with thigh perpendicular to ground. Lumbar spine and pelvis neutral. Circle the top leg as wide as the hips and spine do not move at all. 

Why: Improves hip mobility, pelvic and spinal stability by recruiting abdominal muscles (obliques, multifidus)

Side Kick

How: Side Lying, pillow under head. Head, shoulders, ribs, hips stacked up in a long line. Spine and pelvis neutral. Legs bent 90 degrees like sitting on a chair tipped onto the side.

Lift top in line with hip and reach it back in line with pelvis maintaining height of leg. Bring it back to starting position. 
Maintain leg height and stabilise pelvis and spine, avoiding rolling back and forwards. Imagine torso and hips are inside of two sheets of glass as leg moves back and forth.

Why: Improves balance and gait in the active ageing populations with the aim to prevent falls. A great hip abductor strengthening exercise. This exercise mimics walking and strengthens the muscles of the hips (gluteus) that prevent lateral collapse during gait ( as in Trendelenburg gait).

Side bend on floor

This exercise may not be appropriate for people with limited mobility and can be done simply seated on a chair. Also, it can be done with forearm on top of a box when wrists cannot tolerate load. 

How: Side seated, legs in a diamond shape, feet in line with hips, hand on floor. Lift pelvis forward onto shin and knee and side bend. Return to floor.

Why: Great to load side of body, and mobilise spine into lateral flexion. Lateral flexion is the first movement to decrease with ageing, so active ageing adults should include this plane of movement non their training.

Pilates Press up/Plank

Can omit bending elbows and simply holding a plank to prepare for full press up.

How: Kneeling hands on floor, hips extended or flexed, depending on strength (easier with hips flexed). Bend elbows, extend elbows, 10 repetitions.

Why: A fantastic way to load the torso and abdominal musculature and  build up upper body strength with own body weight in the active ageing populations.

On the Reformer

Back Rowing Preps – Plow

Seated on a box is easier for people with restricted hip mobility. Using the Merrithew® V2Max reformer allows you to move the pulleys to a higher position which makes it easier to recruit lower midback musculature (thoracic spine) and makes it easier on shoulders. 

Why: Improves posture by working the muscles of the back (erector spinae), strengthens abdominals that stabilise torso, strengthens back of arms and shoulders (triceps, posterior deltoids). 

Front Rowing – Offering
Seated on a box is easier for people with restricted hip mobility. Using the Merrithew® V2Max allows you to move the pulleys to a higher position which can assist those with rotator cuff issues.  

Why: Improves posture and stretches the front of the chest, (pectoralis and anterior shoulders). A great shoulder mobiliser and strengthener for active ageing adults.

On the Cadillac

Pull up

At home it could be done holding onto a door frame or gate standing with feet against gate. 

How: Hands on rails as wide as shoulders. Pull up and bring shoulders back (scapular retraction) and extend upper back. Return

Why? Strengthens back musculature, hip extensors (gluteus, hamstrings) and improves upper back movement when adding extension. 

Research: World Health Organisation ACTIVE AGEING: A POLICY FRAMEWORK