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Developed by Joseph Pilates, the classical Pilates method initially intended to rehabilitate injured dancers and athletes has evolved as a mind and body practice suitable for people of all ages and physical condition. Executed correctly, Pilates exercises develop your powerhouse, or core muscles, and will help to increase your balance, strength and flexibility. A certified Pilates instructor who specializes in working with older adults can help you to tailor exercises according to your fitness level and make sure you are doing the exercises properly. Consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
The Pilates method is well suited to the senior population, according to Pilates instructor, Faith Watson. While a loss of muscle tone, decrease in flexibility and chronic lower back pain are associated with a sedentary lifestyle, the low-impact Pilates program helps to increase muscle mass, and renew your strength and range of motion without placing undue stress on aging muscles and joints.
Mat Exercises and the Reformer and Cadillac machines are the traditional options for a Pilates exercise program. However, seniors with limited mobility can also benefit from a modified program that includes a series of exercises executed from a sitting position. The Wunda chair is a traditional piece of equipment with a wide range of exercises that help to strengthen your core muscles. Exercise balls and bands can also be incorporated into your workout, but may require modifications according to your particular circumstances.
Exercises such as the Toe and Heel Rock, the One-Leg Stance and Imprinting are examples of Pilates exercises for seniors. Pilates instructors teach the Toe and Heel Rock to improve circulation and increase flexibility, and the One-Leg Stance to tone and strengthen your inner core and balance your body. The Imprinted Spine is a traditional Pilates exercise that helps to keep your spine and pelvis relaxed and might be suggested as a remedial measure to help alleviate back pain. Regardless of the perceived ease -- or difficulty -- in performing your Pilates exercises, execute your movements under the guidance of a qualified instructor until you have mastered the technique, and can perform them without assistance.
Because there are several variations and adaptations to the Classical Pilates Method, certification requirements vary between Pilates instructors. For your safety and success as a Pilates student, ask your instructor about her training and experience working with older adults before committing to a regular program. Professional Pilates instructors welcome the opportunity to share their philosophy and expertise with prospective clients and will appreciate your interest in their approach. To locate a certified Pilates instructor in your area, ask your senior center or health club to recommend a certified instructor with experience working with older adults.