Pllates: Age-appropriate, gentle and fruitful exercise

Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting weaker. But not all exercise is created equal. Activities such as running or some sports may be too hard on older joints. Other types of exercise require a lot of equipment or facilities such as a pool, track or weights. Older adults looking for a gentle way to get strength and resistance training can look to Pilates to get back some flexibility without risking further injury.

“Pilates is perfect for older adults because it does not have the impact on the body that other forms of exercise do, and is not nearly as severe on the joints as most workouts are,” said Ellie Herman, owner of several Pilates studios and a Pilates instructor and author. “It really is a gentle way to exercise. If you’re an older adult and haven’t exercised in a while, Pilates is a safe way to restart a workout program.”

  • Pilates can increase your stability and balance. Researchers have found that pilates helps improve balance and possibly even reduce the fear and risk of falls. In the study, the group of women who completed a six-week yoga program had a higher mobility and better balance than the group who didn’t participate in pilates.
  • You can tailor your program to your health. Pilates can be easily modified for all types of activity level. There are hundreds of different poses, moves, and exercises to increase strength and flexibility without injury.
  • Start breathing easier. One of the main components of pilates is controlled breathing. You’ll benefit from an increased lung capacity in your other daily activities.
  • Strengthen your muscles down there. Urinary incontinence is a serious issue for older adults. An important part of pilates is core activation, which is connected to the muscles in the pelvic floor. The stronger those muscles are, the better you can control the flow of urine.
  • You can reduce back pain. Years of sitting or pain after surgery can be eased through gentle stretches and strength exercises. A study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that people with chronic lower back pain who participated in pilates for four weeks had reduced back pain, and the pain stayed away for a full year afterward.

You can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. A University of Washington study found that regular exercise reduces the risk of cognitive diseases by up to 40 percent. The mind-body focus of pilates as well as the increased blood flow help keep your brain–which is a muscle–engaged and toned.

You can make new friends. Pilates is a social activity. The instructors are lively, and you can meet other active adults. And, with your increased mobility, you can go out after you work out.

Getting fit as an older adult doesn’t have to come at the expense of your joints, and it’s never too late to get active. Consult with your doctor before you get started with a program, but once you have the all-clear, go visit a studio and see the benefits Pilates can have on your mind and body.


Amy Osmond Cook wrote this article. She

Pilates is a form of strength and resistance exercise that has a low impact on seniors’ bodies.
Pilates is a form of strength and resistance exercise that has a low impact on seniors’ bodies.

is executive director of the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers. “My passion is writing about all types of healthcare issues for both patients and practitioners, especially as they relate to senior care,” she says.