Improve Balance in Seniors With Pilates

Pilates improves balance in seniors. It strengthens soft tissue of the lower extremities that normally decline with age.

How Pilates improves balance musculature

Pilates is a system of mainly bodyweight resistance exercises. These exercises can be done on an exercise mat or on special equipment that offers spring resistance. With its focus on controlled activation of the Powerhouse muscles, Pilates helps develop postural awareness in those who practice it.

The Powerhouse includes those joints and muscles that are critical for balance:

  • Deep core muscles
  • Gluteals
  • Hip flexors
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps

Pilates conditions all of these as well as the ankles. As a result, students/trainees maintain balance over time. One balance study comparing mat Pilates with regular exercise demonstrated that Pilates was effective at improving the balance of seniors while standing still and balance while moving. In fact, it improved dynamic balance—balance while moving—the most. When compared with regular exercise, the differences between the two weren’t all that great. However, when it came to its lasting effects on balance, Pilates was superior to regular exercise.

Pilates also improves balance reflexes

One may wonder about sensory disorders, such as that of the vestibular system, that affect balance. Generally, physical therapy is necessary for balance disorders, and the goal of rehabilitation is to adapt to decline in sensory function. This is because the systems that monitor balance don’t bounce back completely. Instead, the body shifts to relying on other senses.

Yet, there is a role for exercise. The good thing about Pilates is that it also trains the extra-physical sense proprioception, which is the sensing of where the arms and legs are. As trainees become more proficient with Pilates, they develop a better sense of dynamic balance. They become more skilled in fine muscle control as well as forward and lateral movements in various postures. Basically, they move better—more carefree, the natural way.

Start training sooner rather than later

It’s never too early to start training for balance. The same systems that regulate balance in younger people also regulate balance in older adults. Yet, the importance of Pilates to adults over the age of 60 is critical. These adults experience declines in musculoskeletal tissue and in their sensory systems. But it’s also good to start just because. People tend to overestimate their balance abilities, and they don’t know how bad their balance is until they fall. By then it may be too late. Statistics show that older adults have the highest risk of dying or suffering serious injury after falling.

Adjustable to needs of clients

Besides improving balance, Pilates can meet the needs of people with various fitness goals. It tones core muscles in a way that both trims the mid-section and improves posture. Also, the right Pilates instructor can develop a plan for people who have range-of-motion difficulties due to joint conditions or who just need a less athletic mode of working out.

The good thing about doing Pilates on an apparatus such as the Reformer or the Cadillac is that the equipment can be configured to meet trainees at every ability level.