Pilates for Baby Boomers
In 1945, Joseph Pilates wrote,
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
He understood that he was fifty years ahead of his time. And today, almost 70 years later, the program he developed is stronger than ever, having reached a world-wide audience and a following of folks from early teens to late 70s. Yes, late 70s, and maybe even beyond. Pilates is a program for everybody, regardless of past exercise experience. Today, many doctors, osteopaths and physiotherapists are increasingly recommending Pilates for people who aren’t very fit, have aches and pains and have experienced injuries or illnesses.
Most of the exposure of Pilates is beautiful young bodies, stars and athletes, who can choose any fitness routine and have found Pilates to be one of the ones they love. But there is a quietly growing group of people who are finding Pilates to be perfect for their exercise and life needs – people who are over 50, the baby boomers, the empty nesters – whatever you want to call them. I am one and I teach Pilates. I teach clients who range from 30 to 70 years old. Each age group and each individual is looking for something different from their Pilates experience. If you are over 50, and if you would like your body to feel like it did ten or fifteen years ago, maybe Pilates is the exercise program for you.
Why would someone who has not exercised in gyms for years (if ever) find that Pilates would be a good program for them?
There are a number of changes happening to our generation that encourage me to offer Pilates as something beneficial to this age group.
First, our bodies are changing.
There are pains that never were there before. Things we used to do aren’t quite as easy to do anymore, and can be downright painful. As active we have been and as carefully we have been taking care of ourselves, time is letting us know that we are getting older. It is not something we like, not something we want to admit to ourselves, much less anyone else, but it is true. Our bodies hurt!
Second, many of us have more time available to us.
The kids are gone or are going off on their own, the house is nicely settled or we are in a downsized location and have much less work to do around the house and yard. We find we are looking for things to do during our free time.
Third, we have spent the last countless years doing for others.
Now is the time to do for ourselves. Since the kids are gone and the grandchildren aren’t yet around (or are, but not all the time), what sort of activity will make you feel good about yourself?
How does Pilates answer these changes?
In reverse order, Pilates is a mind-body exercise program. Clients practice exercises, which are in a specific order, and they are encouraged to learn the order. Memory is one of the key concepts of Pilates, and learning what the order is and how to do the exercises is really good for our minds and our memory. It is an hour set aside for the client to work their body and mind with the guidance of an instructor, all aimed at the individual’s well-being, safety and success. At the end of the hour, your body will feel stretched, worked, and stronger. Your mind will be cleared of any baggage that came into the studio with you. You can’t help but forget the outside world when you have to focus on yourself! A great thing to do for yourself!
Now that the kids are gone and you have more time, your time can be used to help yourself. You can work to get your beautiful figure back, or tone that six pack abs again. Or you can just want to move your body. Whatever your reason, here is your time to do it.
And to the heart of why Pilates is so good for our generation:
- Pilates is a non-impact body conditioning program. NO IMPACT! No bouncing, no pounding on the floor.
- The program improves movement quality using smooth, flowing, controlled exercises that tone, stretch and balance the body.
- Studios usually have equipment (called Reformers), where a combination of springs of different tensions along with the client’s own body weight provide resistance during exercises, a weight bearing component to the workout. The exercises are strength-building exercises, but are easy on the joints because of the springs.
- The exercises are performed at a moderate pace, a balance between exertion and recovery time. Since you are working in either small group settings or one-on-one with an instructor, the pace will be determined by your body – your strength, your flexibility, you stamina. You will be pushed, but not to a level that you cannot keep up with.
- The exercises encourage full range of motion, which increases joint mobility. The springs can always be stretched a little further challenging your range of motion and each time you practice, it will be different and hopefully, a greater range of motion. Joint are not compromised because there is no pounding on them, it is gentle movement.
- The exercises require the clients to focus on the movement, also including the mind in the process.
- There is specific breathing to each of the exercises. The breathing helps to move through the exercises and helps to get deeper into a stretch or a twist. The deep breathing also helps clear the body of toxins and stress, and clients tend to get fewer colds during the winter months.
What Pilates can do for you:
- Improve flexibility
- Improve posture
- Improve balance
- Increase bone density
- Lower stress levels
- Provide greater joint mobility
- Reduce or eliminate incidence of back pain
- Improve pelvic floor strength
- Improve concentration
- Builds a strong core and trimmer waist.
If you are in your 50s, 60s or 70s and want to start moving without pain as you used to fifteen years ago, give Pilates a try. It won’t change you overnight, but with continued practice and commitment, you will feel better!
Pilates has changed my life tremendously. I have had two back surgeries. Only those who have experienced real chronic pain can tell you about the desperate, hopeless feeling associated with that daily struggle to get through the day. I was sure there was nothing that could possibly make me feel anywhere near normal again. My very sweet hubby insisted I call Judi at Pilates Central. My first class, I was hooked. I had done ‘mat work’ before but doing the reformer and cadillac made ALL the difference. Besides being so fun, after time I could actually move and bend again! I could sleep an entire night through, I didn’t have to brace myself just to bend over. Most of all, I could enjoy my life again and not be plagued daily with the constant ache and pain in every move I made. We retrained my body and my mind to not fear movement. HOWEVER, it is ALL about the instructor!! I am sure that many people’s experiences will vary due to the ability of the instructor to translate words to movement, a true gift. Pilates calls for a lot of internal body work and Judi is excellent at speaking this beautiful ‘body language.’ I remember my very first class and not knowing what to expect. She made me feel so comfortable and capable with her enthusiasm and love of the art.
Please just give this a try, even if you have already and were unfortunate not to find an amazing instructor who would have given you the tools to change your life. — GH
Written by Judi Schnebly, owner of Pilates Central, in Holliston, MA. Judi is a comprehensively trained Pilates instructor, trained through Peak Pilates, with over 850 hours of training.
“I lived with pain for many years before finding Pilates over 15 years ago. Pilates has made such a significant difference in my life that I left the corporate world of IT to help others find how wonderful their body can feel.”