Great Health Guide
PILATES FOR SENIORS: IS IT SAFE?
Justin Balbir & Margarita Gurevich
Clinical pilates is safe, reliable & fun for seniors
Let’s clear up any uncertainty in a swift manner. Pilates is safe for seniors and we strongly recommend it. As we’ve described in other articles, Clinical Pilates is run by highly trained physiotherapists who specialise in facilitating exercise in the safest way possible. This form of exercise is adaptable to almost anyone – this goes from elite athletes who are highly trained, all the way down to frail individuals who require a very gradual and gentle approach.
WHAT MAKES SENIORS MORE VULNERABLE TO INJURIES?
Let’s first understand why the senior population is at higher risk of injury when participating in physical activity.
This is the big one. As we age, our balance tends to deteriorate. Several factors affect our balance. These include eye sight, the vestibular system, in the ears and our proprioception (this is our sense of where our body parts are in space).
2. Reduced strength and bone density.
As part of the ageing process, loss of muscle mass and reduction in bone density is expected. Loss of muscle mass means that there is less protection for our joints and soft tissues and therefore an increased risk of sprains and strains. A reduction in bone density means that there is an increased likelihood of sustaining a fracture, in the event of a fall or accident.
Many other integral parts of our body are compromised with ageing. An essential part of healing is a healthy blood supply to the site of injury and more commonly, circulation may be reduced in the elderly population. Additionally, the nervous
system gradually tends to fire at a slower rate, making reflexes and reaction times slower, thereby increasing the difficulty of tasks which require sudden changes in position and direction of movement. Further to this, those who suffer from cardiac or respiratory issues need to ensure they are not being overworked beyond what is deemed a safe limit. This will vary depending on the individual.
HOW DOES CLINICAL PILATES FOR SENIORS ACCOMMODATE THESE RISKS & HELP REDUCE THEM?
Let’s consider some of the previous examples.
Clinical Pilates is safe, reliable & fun with individual attention.
1. Clinical Pilates is supervised.
Generally done with up to four people in a class but can be done as a oneon-one session for those who require more attention and assistance. The physiotherapist supervising will make sure to provide support with exercises that may compromise one’s balance. Additionally, safe balance-focused exercises will be prescribed in order to improve the balance.
2. Resistance training is highly recommended.
This is a means of reducing the rate of muscle mass loss and bone density reduction. Therefore, many of the Clinical Pilates exercises will focus on building strength and loading up the bones and joints. When this is done in a safe, gradual and consistent manner, the body adapts and becomes stronger as a result.
3. Cardiac and respiratory restrictions.
If the individual is one who cannot work at a high intensity due to cardiac or respiratory restrictions, the exercises can be conducted in a slow, less intensive manner to maintain a steady heart rate. Conversely, those who would benefit from an increase in cardiorespiratory fitness can perform certain exercises at a faster pace, with an increase in repetitions prescribed. There are many other benefits of Clinical Pilates for seniors. The main takeaway should be that almost everyone can and will benefit from exercise. Clinical Pilates is a safe, reliable and often fun environment in which each person can be given the attention they require to reach their goals and maximise their functional capacity.
Justin Balbir has a Bachelor of Health Sciences & Masters of Physiotherapy Practice. He has worked for five years as a sports trainer for the Ajax Football Club, with experience in soft-tissue massage & injury management. Justin specializes in manual therapy & sports injuries and may be contacted via website.
Margarita Gurevich is Senior Physiotherapist and uses Clinical Pilates, SCENAR Therapy & other evidence-based techniques, including Real Time Ultrasound and McKenzie Treatment. Margarita specialises in sports injuries, women’s health (including incontinence) and gastrointestinal issues. Margarita may be contacted via her website.