This week's episode looks at active aging, what it is, why it's important to think about, and how Pilates can meet you at all ages and abilities. I look at how the body ages and how Pilates addresses common concerns around aging and can help keep you moving and grooving!
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[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. I'm Olivia and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and share your thoughts on Instagram at @pilatesstudentsmanual. You can support the podcast by visiting buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts. Let's learn something new.
Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm really happy to share with you today a little bit about Pilates and active aging. The first thing I want to do is [00:01:00] really expand what I mean by active aging, and also talk about specific ways that Pilates can address certain issues as you age. Really expanding on the benefits of Pilates at every age, but especially as we get older. I do want to share a little bit about osteoporosis, because that is a common concern, a really common concern, actually, especially with women, as they age. And then also talk about how Pilates can meet the needs of an elderly and fragile client, as well as an active, older person.
There's a lot to unpack there, but I do think it's important. I think that there can be this idea in our heads, that Pilates is for young dancers and very athletic and flexible and fit people. It's the same idea that [00:02:00] people may come to a yoga class and say, Oh, well, I'm not flexible. So I won't be good at yoga. People might say, Oh, you know, I can't do Pilates. Like I'm not young enough to do Pilates or something like that.
And I really want to dispel that myth because Pilates is for everybody. And that includes everybody at every age. The majority of my private clients are older than 60. And one of my teachers who actually taught me Pilates, only started doing Pilates when she was in her late fifties. I want to make sure that there's not an age barrier to accessing Pilates because it really can offer some great benefits for everyone, regardless of how young you are.
I would say that being aware of active aging and Pilates is important because A) time marches onwards, and B) when we think about active aging as [00:03:00] being people who are like retirement age, we're actually learning that it's not that far away. It's not necessarily in your sixties. That as young as age 40, our balance can begin to deteriorate.
Joseph Pilates said, you're only as old as your spine. That if you have a stiff spine at 30, then you're old. And if you have a flexible, strong spine at 60, then you're young. So a lot of it is not about age as a number, but really what you can do with your body at whatever age you're at.
Our body can change in a linear fashion, but it doesn't have to. If you do absolutely nothing, absolutely zero form of movement, we can see that that tends to catch up with people very quickly. Even other teachers who have found Pilates may have been as young as in their twenties and having chronic back pain from sitting at their desk job and not having great posture and not [00:04:00] having that abdominal support. So it's not limited to who you may typically think of as an active ager.
What we do with our bodies makes a huge difference. I have clients in their eighties who are strong, fit, independent, capable human beings. And I have clients in their forties who are really struggling to perform just daily activities and that's why they're in Pilates. So it really is a spectrum. I don't want you to get hung up that it's like, Oh, now it's 65 and that is the time when I need to start thinking about active aging.
The important thing, whether you're doing Pilates or anything else, is that you want to be able to do the things that you love in life, whether it's playing with your dog or playing with your kids or your grandkids, or unloading groceries from your car, or being able to open cabinets, reach up and take something off of the top shelf.
And those may be things that you take for granted if you are a younger person, but they're really things [00:05:00] that we want to think about and want to be able to do for the entirety of our lives. And Pilates is a way that you can continue moving, grooving, and living your life in a way that your body isn't holding you back, or isn't stopping you from being able to do the things that you want to do.
Another quote from Joseph Pilates is that he thought that if you do Pilates, then you'll have spontaneous zest and pleasure for life. And that's really what we're doing. We move our body and all the ways that we can move it so that we feel good outside of the Pilates studio. Because even if you are a Pilates teacher and all you do is Pilates, you're still going to not do Pilates more than you do Pilates, even if it's your full-time job.
When I talk about the benefits of Pilates, it's really the benefits of any structured movement system. I'm going to be talking of course, through a Pilates frame, but really, I don't want you to feel limited, like you have to do Pilates. Pilates does offer some really specific [00:06:00] benefits and advantages that are great for active agers beyond burning calories. There are lots of ways that exercise benefits our life, and it's not just about the number on the scale or calories burned.
Pilates is a low impact form of exercise. So if you are a person who does have stuff going on with your joints at any age, Pilates is really gentle on the joints. Because a lot of times, especially when we're using the reformer, you're out of gravity. Gravity is not pushing down on you and compressing you the same way it is if you're standing upright. And you can work against the spring resistance instead of just body weight and gravity, and that can be super supportive.
The equipment can support you beyond its low impact nature. It can also support you when you're building strength. When you're just getting started, that equipment can kind of fill in gaps and allow you to move and really support you as you move. [00:07:00] It can work with you instead of just against you, the way that gravity or your body weight alone might do.
Pilates has a lot of unilateral work and that can help improve your balance can also improve sort of our connections between our brain and our body. And a lot of the intricate choreography that we can do is a great way to get your brain involved in the exercises. It's not a repetitive and boring action. It's really something that your brain can engage with. And if you're someone like me, who also has a mind that tends to go a mile a minute, it gives your brain something to do while you're executing the movement and can keep you involved as you're going.
The work that we do, whether it's with weight, gravity, or the resistance of the springs or other equipment, it's allowing us to build strength using those things. And again, this is very functional strength. This is the strength that helps you get up from seated. That helps you climb stairs. [00:08:00] That helps you pick things up. Like it's not strength in a vacuum; it's strength that you can use for everything.
Same thing with flexibility. Is the goal to do the splits? I don't know, maybe that's your goal, but it's nice to be able to bend down and tie your shoes or to put on socks, put on pants, anything like that, bend over and pick something up off of the ground. All of those things, very functional.
Because you have this incredible brain body connection, you are building body awareness, which in turn helps with balance and also helps you when you aren't necessarily experiencing a balance challenge just with knowing where you are in space. Knowing how your body reacts to load bearing things, knowing how your body responds and can move really helps.
Not only in terms of having that awareness, but also in terms of building self-confidence and self-esteem. That you will get stronger if you do Pilates. You will get more mobile [00:09:00] and more aware of what's going on. And that feels good. It feels good to move.
And for me, at least there's a bit of pride that comes with that as well. That you're proud of the growth that you've made, that you're able to do things that maybe a few weeks, a few months, a few years ago, you may not have been able to do. I know people who have started doing Pilates in their fifties and feel stronger than they did in their forties and maybe even their thirties. It really does have that effect, that impact.
Coming up after the break, I'll be talking a little bit about osteoporosis, about bridging the gap between Pilates and perhaps a more fragile person and just continuing to share how amazing Pilates can be for this specific instance. That's coming up next.
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Osteoporosis is a condition in which you have low bone [00:11:00] density, and low bone density means that you are more susceptible to breaking bones. Often it's cervical vertebrae, which are the bones in the neck. It can be wrists, a lot of times it's wrists. And when we talk about breaking a hip, not necessarily breaking the pelvis, but breaking the thigh bone where it fits into your pelvis.
If you think about the episode we just had about All About the Hip, it's like the head of the femur, the head of your thighbone, that nestles into your hip socket. Because where it nestles in, there's like a thinner part of bone. That's another place that's easy to fracture or can break.
Osteoporosis is very prevalent in the United States, according to the CDC or the Center for Disease Control, about one in four women over the age of 65 have osteoporosis and about one in 20 men. Those stats go up dramatically [00:12:00] if you include osteopenia, which is not quite as severe as osteoporosis, but also not ideal in terms of you have lower bone density than maybe what you should, or maybe what would protect you from those breaks or fractures.
To talk about osteoporosis in a little bit simpler terms. There are two types of cells that we're talking about: osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts are builders. They build bone for us. Osteoclasts are bone destroyers, and they pretty much eat our bones. What happens if we're aging and we're becoming more sedentary and less active, our body recognizes that if we aren't moving around very much, then we don't really need strong bones anymore.
Our body is very much about being the most efficient thing that it can possibly be. So if just in our [00:13:00] lifestyle, we've told our body, Hey, I don't really need these bones to be strong. Our osteoclasts start eating our bones, and then our bones are less strong and then it's easier to break them.
Now, regardless of whether we are a sedentary person or not, we do want to have strong bones. Doing exercise with resistance, especially on the reformer where you're able to increase the resistance beyond what you may typically have for resistance in an exercise, we can use more resistance. It sends a signal to our brain that we still need our bones to be strong because we're asking our bones to do more than our typical amount of movement. Then our brain is like, Oh my gosh, we got to build some bone. Like obviously we still need it. And that's really important.
There have been studies about Pilates as a resistance exercise and its effects in osteoporosis. The results are incredible, that yes, Pilates, especially done in a private session, especially with a teacher who knows about [00:14:00] osteoporosis and the protocol to specifically build bone. And that may not be a hundred percent what you're getting in a group class. Again, group class is better than not doing anything, but in a private session, you can really tailor the session to build bone density if that's what you need.
I've talked a bit about doing Pilates, that even if you are older, you may still be very strong, very active, very able to do things. That's fantastic. Pilates is definitely there to support you, to challenge you where you need to be challenged and to maintain things that need to be maintained in order for you to have a fabulous quality of life and remain independent and all of those good things.
But Pilates can also meet you if you are elderly and fragile and maybe haven't exercised in a long time. Pilates is still there for you. If you have difficulty getting up and down off of the ground, there's still Pilates that can meet you where you are. [00:15:00] For a person who is getting into exercise after not exercising, or who has like a limited amount of movement or strength, I really do recommend private sessions to you. Because then you can work one-on-one with a teacher to really formulate a program that meets your needs, where you don't have to feel rushed, or that things are impossible. Because every Pilates exercise, even the most complicated, intricate bit of choreography has pieces. And we can take pieces of any Pilates exercise and use them to greet you wherever you are in your Pilates journey.
As I mentioned before the break, the equipment can really support you. Whether it's working on a Cadillac, that's a little bit higher up, you don't need to get up and down off of the ground, whether it's working on a clinical reformer, that's a little bit higher or a little bit wider as well. Even virtually there's so much you can do that is [00:16:00] Pilates while you're seated in a chair. That a good teacher can help you where you are, and they aren't waiting for you to be somewhere else. Like you can start doing Pilates exactly where you are.
Overall, whether you're a person who's very active and is looking to cross train or work on balance or any specific goal, Pilates is there for you. If you are a person who is nervous about doing group classes in a studio, there's Pilates that's there for you. The studios that I work for offer a free introductory class or a free one-on-one session with a teacher where you can just talk about what's going on in your body and what you'd like to do, what you're hoping to get out of it and also just get acquainted with the equipment. There's definitely ways that we can meet you where you are.
So if that's you, I highly recommend Pilates to you wherever you are. If you have a friend or a parent or a coworker [00:17:00] who is looking for a form of exercise that is nonjudgmental, that is really supportive, highly recommending Pilates. You can share this episode with them. Because Pilates benefits don't end, really. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever age you are, Pilates is there.
If you're a teacher and you're looking to learn more about working with older clients or incorporating more active aging theory or exercises into your classes, into your sessions, I can recommend a really great virtual course by Chelsea Corley. It does offer a CEC, which is excellent if you need those. And she really discusses in her course how to incorporate motor learning theory, which is her area of expertise, into working with active agers. It's really awesome. I've linked that in the show notes. Erika Quest is also a teacher that has some really great active aging resources on Pilates [00:18:00] Anytime, if you're looking for more inspiration as well.
I'd like to give a big thank you to all of my supporters on Buy Me a Coffee. I appreciate your donations, your messages of encouragement. You really make my day and your support is what makes this podcast possible.
I hope you have a great week and I'll talk to you again soon.
Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. Be sure to check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesstudentsmanual and subscribe wherever you're listening. Interested in teaching Pilates too? Check out Pilates Teachers' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts.
I hope to see you next episode. Until next time. [00:19:00]