Regular exercise is the only well-established fountain of youth, but not all exercises are created equal. Are you looking for a way to stay fit throughout your life? Here’s good news: Pilates is for people at any stage of life who want to look and feel their best. You can practice Pilates at any age! While some forms of exercise are best-suited to younger people, Pilates is an exception. It will erase years off your body.
Chronologically you may be 50+, but if you stick with a regular Pilates practice and healthy diet, you can slow the aging process and may even begin to look younger. People will do a double-take and not believe how old you are. Imagine how awesome it will be to not only feel younger, but to look younger as well.
Why You Can Do Pilates at Any Age
Are you wondering what makes Pilates unique among exercises for people of all ages? I’m glad you asked! Here are just a few reasons.
- Pilates presents a remarkable opportunity for an aging population to perform a series of safe and effective exercises. You can do Pilates at any age because the movements are gentle, progressive and performed slowly with good postural alignment at all times.
- Pilates can provide people with the tools and techniques they need to age with dignity and a sense of well-being.
- As we age, flexibility becomes much more critical. Pilates emphasizes flexibility and works especially well for people middle aged and up.
- Pilates is a corrective, rehabilitative form of exercise developed to improve our body’s functioning by bringing it back into a natural state.
- You can modify the exercises and work at your own pace as your strength and stamina dictate. A qualified teacher can help you learn how to work with your own body so you can continue to practice Pilates at any age.
- Regular Pilates practice can lead to a stronger, leaner body, while developing body awareness. You will become more aware of how you sit, stand, and move. You will be able to relate those habits to the aches, pains, and injuries you have now or had in the past. Better still, you’ll be able to change those habits so you can eliminate aches, pains, and injuries.
- Another great benefit of Pilates at any age is the practice improves the connection between your mind and your body. As you age, you will likely become more aware of the importance of a holistic approach to health that includes the mind and spirit as well as the physical body.
A Man Ahead of His Time
Joseph Pilates was ahead of his time when he developed the mind-body exercise method that bears his name. His philosophies on health and exercise hold true to this day. This quote from the man himself shows why it’s possible to benefit from Pilates at any age:
“I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.”
~ Joseph Pilates
When you think of fitness, mindfulness may not be your first thought. When you think of mindfulness, you’re probably not thinking of a workout. But the truth is, there are mindful fitness routines, and Pilates is one of the most effective.
Movement with control is one of the six principals that sets Pilates apart from other exercise practices. I should state right from the start that Joseph Pilates did not name what is now known as the Pilates Principals. They were derived from his concepts and named later.
I cannot always control what goes on outside. But I can always control what goes on inside.
Why Pilates is a Mindful Fitness Routine
Movement with control and awareness is powerful. Have you ever seen an athlete exhibit breathtaking control over his or her body? I know I have. I watch in awe, as I bet you do.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to go to the same lengths to control your own movements in Pilates. But working towards increasing your control while engaged in an exercise should always be in the forefront of your mind. Pilates is a mindful fitness routine in the sense that awareness of your body helps you master control of your movement. Control of your movement allows you to get the most out of your Pilates workout.
Control in a Pilates exercise is less about the intensity or multiple reps you are doing and more about using proper form to achieve safe, effective results. Here, moving with control means using your muscles to stabilize your body as you lift and lower your limbs rather than flinging them through the air like wet noodles. It means drawing your deepest abdominal muscles towards your spine as you roll up from the mat, one vertebra at a time, as opposed to the jerking motion of old style sit-ups and crunches. This is mindful fitness. You remain aware of how your body should move in each exercise and work towards mastering that movement.
Mastering Control in Pilates
When you engage in Pilates exercises mindfully, you commit fully to each exercise and move deliberately and intentionally. Control of movement is not something you can achieve overnight. However, you can work towards control in each movement of your workout. Pilates is a practice, and each time you practice, you get a little bit better. Your teacher will give you modifications to help you keep control of your movement. Use these modifications; they are meant to help you. When you feel like you’ve lost control of the movement, it’s time to stop.
Control takes concentration. Your mind and body must work together. Make a commitment to mindful fitness—to working on gaining better control of your body—not just when you exercise but in all activities throughout your day. Pilates is more than exercise; it is a practice for life.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.
Thich Nhat Hanh
What is a Pilates Body?
The short answer is a Pilates body is a body made fit via the unique method developed by Joseph Pilates. The method has been around for nearly a century (since the 1920s). The quote below characterizes Pilates in a nutshell.
“A body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living.” ~ Joseph Pilates
When Joseph Pilates developed his unique fitness method he didn’t do it to help his students develop flat abs. His intention was to develop an overall healthy and vital body. But anyone who has practiced Pilates for a while know that a Pilates body does feature flat abs. It also features good posture and a host of other results that are byproducts of the practice.
Through Pilates, practitioners can develop a body that functions well and performs daily activities effortlessly. Pilates helps build strength and balance so one can move with grace and perform physical activity with ease.
A Pilates body can withstand the wear and tear of a long and active life, making it an ideal exercise to begin at any age. That is to say, a Pilates body is ageless. The term refers more to how your body feels and functions than the way it looks.
Coordinating Body, Mind, and Spirit
Joseph Pilates also said, “The Pilates method of body conditioning develops the body uniformly, corrects posture, restores vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit.”
A person with a Pilates body has a strong and flexible spine. This is important because a strong, long spine keeps internal organs safe, and a flexible spine helps you move and function optimally. Pilates exercises are designed to make sure the spine is well-supported by the core muscles and that there’s proper alignment of all the bones.
As Joseph Pilates said, the flexibility of the spine is a good indication of a person’s true age. In other words, if you stay flexible, you will age well. Because it can strengthen, lengthen, and articulate the spine, Pilates is known for its ability to support a healthy back and is often recommended to those who suffer from chronic back pain.
In Pilates, the body is not considered separately from the entire person. Unlike other “fitness” programs that engage the body while leaving the mind to wander, Pilates consciously integrates body and mind at all times. This in turn rejuvenates the spirit.
Why You Want a Pilates Body
Do you want a body that stays flexible with age and a mind and spirit that are one with that body? Do you want to be healthy throughout a long and active life? Then you want a Pilates body. Pilates is about helping people of all ages enjoy life and experience its highest potential.
Do you wonder what Pilates can do for you? In short, it can help you get fit and have a better quality of life. But don’t take my word for it. Consider these words, spoken in 1965 by the man who developed the exercise method:
“I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.” — Joseph Hubertus Pilates, age 86
People at different fitness levels who have begun doing Pilates exercises say they’ve seen improvements in range of motion, flexibility, posture and abdominal strength. My clients all say they stand taller and have become more aware of their bodies.
So, you ask what Pilates can do for you? Read on, and I will tell you more.
Pilates Exercises are Adaptable to Many Fitness Levels
Whether you are 50+ or just starting to exercise, an elite athlete or somewhere in between, the foundations of Pilates movement apply to you. Building from core strength, focusing on proper alignment, and a body-mind approach make Pilates accessible to all. Pilates exercises can be tailored to individual needs.
Joseph Pilates was adamant that Pilates, was about “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” This is one thing that makes Pilates exercise different: we practice each movement with total attention. When we exercise with awareness, the body and mind unite to bring forth the most benefit possible from each exercise. The Pilates principles — centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow — are key concepts we use to integrate body and mind.
Pilates trains the body as an integrated whole. The workouts promote strength and balanced muscle development as well as flexibility and increased range of motion for the joints. When you think about what Pilates can do for you, think beyond the physical body. The breath and mind are integrated in this practice as well.
Creates Strength without Bulk
Long, lean muscles are the name of the game here. In Pilates, we are not looking to build muscles for show. We are building toned muscles that work perfectly within the context of the body as a whole and the needs of a person as they move through life.
In Pilates, we work safely to increase flexibility and range of motion. A body that can stretch and bend to meet the flow of life is a very realistic goal.
Develops Core Strength
Pilates is all about building core strength. The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles we rely on to support a strong back, good posture, and patterns of efficient movement. When the core is strong, the body’s frame is supported. The neck and shoulders can relax, and the rest of the muscles and joints are freed to do their jobs —not more. A nice side benefit is that core training promotes the flat abs we all want.
With good alignment and a strong core, good posture follows naturally. With good posture, one can move freely. As you age, you’ll be especially grateful that good posture is on the list of what Pilates can do for you.
It might seem like a paradox, but the more you exercise, the more energy you have. The more energy you have, the more you feel like exercising. Pilates gets the breath and circulation moving and floods the body with the good feelings you get from exercising. After a workout, my clients always feel rejuvenated and refreshed.
How long does it take to realize what Pilates can do for you?
If you’re like many people, you’ll suspect you’re on the road to physical and mental transformation after just one or two sessions. After 30 sessions, you’ll have a whole new body! But again, let’s ask Joseph Pilates himself to answer this question:
“In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you’ll be on your way to having a whole new body.” ~ Joseph Pilates
Ready to find out what Pilates can do for you? Grab a mat (you don’t need fancy equipment), and let’s start your journey!
Many people at midlife and beyond are skeptical about exercise for people over 50. If you’re one of these folks, you may assume you can’t keep up with younger, fitter fitness enthusiasts. You may avoid gyms and exercise classes for this reason.
The good news is it’s never too late to start doing Pilates! In fact, Pilates is an ideal form of exercise for people over 50. It can turn back the clock and erase years of aging, helping you look and feel your best at any age. Pilates also has mind/body benefits. Combined with good nutrition, you’ll look great and feel great when you practice Pilates.
Why Pilates is a Great Form of Exercise for People Over 50
- Pilates consists of gentle movements that are easy on the joints. If you have joint pain, you’ll want your exercise routine to be easy on your joints. Even if you don’t have issues related to movement, Pilates offers an opportunity to move while keeping your joints safe as you get older.
- Pilates movements also help improve postural alignment. As we get older, we need to pay more attention to posture. Years of slumping over desks and keyboards takes its toll. Good posture is important and not just about appearance. Lengthening the spine makes breathing easier and gives your internal organs more room to function properly.
- You’ll strengthen your core. A strong core is the basis on which whole-body fitness is built. It’s not just about “six-pack abs.” Pilates training builds stability and balance, making the physical challenges of everyday life much easier to overcome. Whether you’re walking to work or browsing shops on the Upper West Side of NYC, you’ll do so more easily with Pilates training.
- You’ll become more flexible. It’s common to lose flexibility with age. When you think about what makes something a good exercise for people over 50, one thing to consider is whether the activity helps with flexibility. Pilates is a powerful corrective exercise. With regular practice, you can achieve even greater flexibility and fluidity of motion in your fifties, sixties and beyond.
- Pilates is more than just exercise. It’s an opportunity to become aware of your body. You’ll notice the habits you’ve developed at work and at home that lead to aches and pains. Pilates instruction will give you the tools to combat those habits.
How to Find Pilates Instruction for People Over 50
Like anything else, finding the right Pilates instructor and environment is key to getting the results you want. There are specific qualities that make a good Pilates instructor, and you’ll want to find a teacher you connect with.
Another thing to think about is the environment. As I mentioned, if you’re older, you may hesitate to go to an exercise studio or gym crowded with younger people who have different goals. In that case, you may be able to find an in-home Pilates instructor who meets your needs. The benefits of having personalized instruction in the comfort of your own home can move in-home Pilates straight to the top of the list when it comes to exercise for people over 50.
There are six principles in Pilates: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. The principles work together, and they each have their own benefits as well. Let’s look at Pilates concentration—what it is and why it’s important.
What is Pilates Concentration?
Pilates is a unique exercise modality because the focus is on both mind and body. In Pilates, breathing is the physical key to attaining mind-body awareness. Concentration is the mental key. Pilates concentration can be thought of as the conscious control of a movement or exercise which concurrently enhances body awareness. In Pilates, precision and proper form is much more important than how many reps of an exercise you complete.
When you have proper concentration, you can do an exercise while focusing on all the variables that make the exercise effective. For example, you are aware of whether you are in the right position. You notice if your shoulders are in the right place, and you make sure your back feels okay. You simultaneously focus on the full movement and each of its components. To do this, you must remain in the moment throughout the exercise.
Pilates Concentration is Useful in Everyday Life
The benefits of concentration go beyond exercise. It is a skill you can take off the mat as well. By using concentration to make a strong mind-body connection, you become more focused on where your body is in space all the time. You’re more aware of where you are in relation to what is physically going on around you. This leads to more balanced, graceful movements and reactions no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Why the Ability to Concentrate Matters in Pilates and in Everyday Life
The body awareness you develop from strong concentration while doing Pilates exercises will help you in a lot of practical ways. Let’s say you’re standing on a crowded subway car. You couldn’t get a seat, so you’re holding on to a strap or pole while the train is moving. Your ability for concentration and knowing where your body is in space will help you react to the bumps and jerks of the subway car. You’ll more easily keep your balance, and you won’t feel as anxious about the ride.
Or suppose you’re in a mall that’s packed with shoppers. Creating that inward focus will affect your outward movement. You’ll ease in and out of the aisles, passing by other shoppers without being jostled as much.
Body awareness also helps you stay safe. Many injuries happen because a person is not paying attention to what is going on in or around the body. With concentration and attention, you’ll be less likely to do things that result in injury.
Pay attention. Concentrate. Be Aware.
Pilates exercises help you get physically fit, but they also help you pay attention, concentrate and remain aware. This is important for both physical and mental well-being. Awareness is the first step in being able to respond to a situation. The more you practice concentrating on physical movements on the mat, the more you’ll notice off the mat as well.