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Pilates for the older adult

By CAROLYN EVAN-WATKINS [email protected]

Carolyn Evan-Watkins is a sports, fitness and Pilates instructor with more than 15 years experience. She is a lecturer, teaching and assessing instructors in health and fitness. Carolyn has also been a Government advisor, and still writes and presents her own courses within this field. She moved to the Algarve last year and teaches Pilates classes in Vale do Lobo and Boliqueime.

Keeping fit and healthy as we get older is vitally important. Pilates is just one of the ways we can help to maintain a flexible and strong body, and is ideal for the older adult.

Pilates increases our flexibility (which is the range of movement around our joints), and strength, as well as being gentle on the body.  It can help to improve our balance, which can lessen as we get older.  

Pilates can help by strengthening our ‘core’ muscles which will alleviate back pain. This will not only provide relief from pain, but also increase the mobility in our spine.

Weight bearing exercises are important at any stage of our lives, but especially as we grow older.   The structure of our bones can weaken and make us more susceptible to fractures. This condition is called Osteoporosis.  Anyone who thinks there may be a chance that they suffer from this condition should consult their doctor, and consider asking for a bone density scan.

Within a short time of starting Pilates sessions we notice we have more energy and less pain. As well as the physical benefits, Pilates can also help to relieve tension and stress. Pilates breathing is an important factor in this, but can take time to master.  

“Breathing is the first act of life. Our very life depends on it. Millions have never learned to master the art of correct breathing.”  Joseph Pilates

Within Pilates we use lateral or thoracic breathing. This means breathing up into the ribcage. Firstly imagine wearing an invisible belt around our middle and tighten it to about notch number three.  We then place our hands around our ribcage, middle finger touching. As we breathe in our middle fingers separate slightly, and as we breathe out, the fingers come back together. This may not come easily but please persevere.

In the Algarve we are near some of the best golf courses in the world. Pilates is fantastic for improving not only our quality of life but also the quality of our game. Here is some helpful advice to help you stay pain and injury free and also improve your game.

Whatever activity you take part in, please remember to warm up beforehand.  

Remember to bend your knees when lifting your golf bag, so that you use your leg muscles and not your back.

Stretch your abdominal, back and shoulder muscles before the game.

To balance the stress placed on the muscles in your back, occasionally practise your swing in the opposite direction.

Before taking part in any Pilates session, please consult your doctor to make sure that this programme will be right for you.  Also make sure that your instructor or personal trainer is fully qualified to teach ‘Pilates for Seniors’.

Whatever exercise or fitness programme we take part in, it is important that we adhere to it and enjoy what we do.  It can be difficult to maintain a fit, healthy and active lifestyle, but the chances are we will adhere to it, if we have fun taking part.