Pilates has been around for about 100 years, and it still amazes me how many people have not heard of this incredible exercise method. It was first created by Joseph Pilates and initially gained popularity among the dance community as a way to recover from and prevent injuries. But you don’t have to be a dancer to practice Pilates — or enjoy the benefits.
Pilates is a full body strengthening system that emphasizes breath, precision, coordination, and core strength. It helps people connect to their bodies in a way they haven’t been able to achieve with traditional strengthening methods.
Many people in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s love Pilates because it helps them have more energy, better balance, improved strength, and more mobility. It allows them to participate in all the activities they love with more ease – and most importantly – with significantly less risk for injury.
Here are five reasons why I love adding Pilates to any fitness routine, and why you should consider adding it to yours too.
1. Pilates helps prevent back pain
Once you hit 40, your risk of back injury starts to climb. A regular practice of Pilates is a safe and sustainable way to help keep your back pain-free. It focuses on core strength but is also a well-balanced exercise system. Full body strength and balance is a critical component for life-long back health, and it is not always addressed in traditional back rehabilitation programs or treatments.
2. Pilates strengthens your whole body, not just your core
One of the keys to truly enhancing your fitness is what I call “balanced strength.” That’s when each part of your body works together to produce the right amount of force, at the right time, to do your favorite activity in the most efficient way possible. Efficiency means you’ll be able to do it for longer and with more ease. It’s entirely possible to be “strong”, but have certain muscles working harder than others. This creates an imbalance, which eventually leads to problems. Pilates emphasizes full body strength that is coordinated, which helps promote balanced strength throughout your body, and leads to less injuries over time.
3. Pilates helps you get more flexible and mobile
Do you stretch your hamstrings every single day and get frustrated because they’re still tight? It’s probably because you’re not stretching the right way. Or maybe they don’t even need to be stretched at all? What I love about Pilates is that it stretches your body in a dynamic way – with movement – so that muscles lengthen the right way. The days of statically holding a stretch for 30 seconds are long gone. Plus, mobility is extremely important for strength. Muscles work better when your joints move fully and freely. “Mobility before stability” is a phrase I say often. And Pilates is a great way to get your joints and muscles mobile while also promoting stability.
4. Pilates puts minimal stress on your joints
Aging is a real thing and along with it comes arthritis. The key to combating arthritis is optimizing the area around the affected joint (or joints). When you have good mobility, and balanced strength, you have less compressive forces around your joints. Arthritis doesn’t like compressed, crowded joints. So when you strengthen and stretch your whole body in a good, balanced way – arthritis becomes less painful and stiff. Pilates helps with all this and doesn’t cause any added stress on your joints.
5. Pilates trains your nervous system
Huh? Is that even a thing? Yes it is – and it’s almost always the missing link for people who feel stuck, or can’t seem to get beyond a certain point in their fitness. It can also be the reason why an activity you’ve been doing “for years” suddenly becomes problematic or painful. If you don’t train your nervous system, it gets lazy, and compensations will develop in your body. Compensations lead to problems when unchecked. Since Pilates is a mind-body exercise, it helps to keep the communication between your brain and your muscles fresh. Pilates emphasizes precision and coordinated movements, which enhances and reinforces this connection. In other words, your nervous system can’t get lazy when you do Pilates!
If you’re not yet incorporating Pilates into your fitness or rehab routine – what are you waiting for? It’s my go-to exercise system for folks over age 40 and it’s my favorite way to help people keep their back pain gone.
Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, or to grab a seat in her Pilates 101: Get [Your] Back to Health Program, email her at [email protected] or call 603-380-7902