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Pilates for Older Adults

School Of Pilates Posted Oct 14, 2013 Future Fit Training


Teaching Pilates to older adults can be very rewarding.

Pilates for Older Adults

As a Pilates teacher it is your responsibility to know how to design, adapt and modify your classes to suit this type of client, and develop a sound understanding of the benefits of Pilates for older adults.

Pilates has become widely popular with older adults as this type of clientele find the softer approach to exercise very appealing, in comparison to other forms of exercise that tend to have more impact upon the body. Pilates focuses on control and stability, which is crucial for the older adult. Pilates can help to improve body awareness, muscular strength and endurance, range of motion, co-ordination and motor fitness. It can also enhance functional movement, including balance and posture. With this in mind, it is understandable that the older population are drawn to the Pilates technique.

Although Pilates can be of huge benefit to some age related ailments, there are some exercises that should avoided or modified depending upon your class participants and what they have identified on their pre-screening questionnaire. Should you have any participants with osteoporosis you need to be careful not to include spinal flexion, rotation or side bend moves due to the compression of fractures to the spine. You would therefore need to consider which of the Pilates exercises would be suitable, safe and effective for this type of client. A carefully thought out programme could be of extreme benefit and will help to increase bone density. Exercises could be performed standing, or even seated on a chair.

Pilates can also be extremely beneficial for sufferers of arthritis. As Pilates helps to mobilise the joints and develop range of motion, this can relieve stiffness and reduce pain helping to maintain normal joint movements. Modifications such as the use of cushioning under the knees and wrist for some exercises may make the exercise more comfortable for your clients.

When teaching Pilates to older adults you will need to have modification to hand. The use of small equipment may help to aid body alignment, offer support and control or just to make the positioning a little more comfortable for the client. It is useful to have dyna-bands, small balls, towels, cushions or thick Pilates mats available for use. You may also need to have some chairs available for those that cannot get up and down from the floor, and you would need a bank of alternatives available for those struggling.

To get you started, here are a couple of examples of using the chair in Pilates:

Shoulder retraction with the dyna-band

Sitting on a chair, with the band underneath both feet, feet are hip width apart and parallel. Cross the band over in front of you and hold taut.  Find neutral spine sitting tall onto your sit bones and lengthening through the cervical spine. Eye line is to the horizon and your shoulder blades are melting down your back, lengthening long through the neck. Ensure that your pelvis is level, hip bones in line with the pubic bone. Engage your pelvic floor and TVA to about 20-30%, inhale into the rib cage to prepare. Exhale and draw your elbows back retracting the scapulae, elbows bend and draw back staying in close by the sides of the body. Inhale to return to the start position, maintaining your seated postural stance at all times. Repeat 4-6 reps

Single leg stretch with a ball

Sitting on a chair, with a small soft ball underneath one foot, feet are hip width apart and parallel. Find neutral spine sitting tall onto your sit bones and lengthening through the cervical spine. Eye line is to the horizon and your shoulder blades are melting down your back and your arms are relaxed to the side, lengthening long through the neck. Unsure that you pelvis is level, hip bone in line with the pubic bone. Engage your pelvic floor and TVA to about 20-30%, inhale into the rib cage to prepare. Exhale and roll the ball away from you extending at the knee to where you feel comfortable and able to maintain the control, inhale and return the ball back to the start position. Repeat 3-5 on each leg.

Pilates can be an extremely effective way of helping older clients maintain and regain health and wellness. It is important to ensure that you are adequately trained to teach this type of client and that you continue to develop your understanding and knowledge of Pilates for the older adult.

“We retire too early and we die too young. Our prime of life should be in the 70’s and old age should not come until we are almost 100” – Joseph Pilates.

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