Strengthening your body through Pilates

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As you get older, staying in shape becomes more important than ever.

But if you’re put off exercise because you don’t like running or competitive team sports, rest assured that there are more options available.

Pilates, for example, has become one of the world’s leading physical fitness systems over the last 50 years and it shows no sign of waning. But what exactly is Pilates – and what are its benefits?

Pilates explained

In many ways, Pilates is similar to yoga, the ancient Indian physical and spiritual practice that’s now very popular in the west. But Pilates is a much more recent invention, and was developed by the German Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Like yoga, it is typically taught in classes of varying sizes, and each student has a soft oblong mat on which various routines are performed.

Essentially, Pilates exercises help to condition the body, improving muscle strength, flexibility and balance, and helping to develop a strong centre. There are six Pilates principles:

  • Centring
  • Control
  • Flow
  • Breath
  • Precision
  • Concentration

If you attend a Pilates class, you’ll find that the variety of exercises you have to perform will incorporate these principles in various combinations. So by the end of your class – which usually lasts around an hour – your body will have engaged in all six principles.

As in yoga, breathing plays an especially important role, with students encouraged to breathe in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth, expelling all hair from the lungs. Try closing your eyes and practising this routine for a few minutes to test if you would enjoy Pilates. For some people, simply breathing in this manner helps them re-connect with their body and can bestow a sense of calm.

Who can do Pilates?

Perhaps the primary reason behind the popularity of Pilates is that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be flexible to start a Pilates class, because that’s what you’ll be taught when you get there. Pilates is a challenging discipline, but it’s not about beating somebody else’s best run time or an opposing team. It’s about re-connecting with your body and understanding its strengths and weaknesses. So it’s ideal if you want to pursue a form of exercise that’s rigorous and fulfilling, but simultaneously relaxing.

One of the main focuses of Pilates is spinal and pelvic alignment. As a result, it’s particularly popular with pregnant women and women who have just given birth. Its muscle-strengthening benefits mean that it is also very beneficial for over 50s. That’s because, as you get older, you start to lose muscle mass and engaging with a regular Pilates routine will help strengthen those muscles in the long-term.

Remember, Pilates is not a competition: if your body refuses to get into a particular position or your joints hurt, you don’t need to continue that particular exercise. It’s about knowing your body’s limits and getting the best out of it without causing yourself pain.

If you’re still undecided, you can find out more about Pilates from reputable sources like the BBC and the NHS. But perhaps the best way is simply to find a drop-in class in your area, and see first-hand if Pilates is for you.

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Hello ... I am the Creative Director and Website Editor for Silversurfers and manage all the social media too. I hope you find the features and articles we have shared with you of interest and relevance. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us ... I hope you enjoy Silversurfers and all that we offer ...

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Margaret Hart
19th Dec 2015
0
Thanks for voting!
With regards to Alzheimer's disease I wonder how many other silver surfers who have personal experience of dealing with it within the family. If they have how many would agree with me that once the disease has a hood the sufferers are not so much the patient as the carer or carers. I had a lot of experience volunteering with Alzheimer's as I used to be part of a group of people who set up a day a week in our church hall when carers could come along for the day with the sufferer or to bring them and have a day to themselves and we looked after them, entertained them and gave them dinners as well as morning and afternoon refreshments. We managed to have at least three people to every patient plus all the people who,worked in the kitchen and sometimes outside entertainment although we did try to do that ourselves with things like music and many other things from the past which most remembered. We ran this for quite a time until the Council decided we could do it no longer as we did not have a toilet for the disabled although no one needed it. It was a great disappointment to the careers in particular and those of us who has worked so hard to put it together.

A few years after this my father in law became ill in the same way but as his wife would not consider having him at home and it would have been very difficult he was taken in to a Mental Hospital of the old type and it was hell to deal with. Quite simply the staff didn't care and when we visited every night he would be sitting in his own mess and wet through and I used to strip wash him and change him as often as I could as I was the only one who could stomach it - there was never any help from the staff and in fact I think they resented me doing it. He did not last long in that place and I was very grateful that he never knew the indignities he had to suffer or we hope he didn't. I found it very hard to deal with as at the time there didn't seem to be any body available to talk to and I'll be honest I resented having it all to do myself as the youngest but I couldn't have seen him left.

It brought home to me the cruelty of making people live through this type of hellish life with very few people who care enough to help. I am a strong believer in Dignitas but I would like to go further with the ability to make and have kept to Living Wills where when you are of sane mind you can decide what you want to happen to yourself in whatever circumstances as I never wish to go through that myself or to have my only son have to deal with this. How many people would say they wish to live with serious dementia? I'm well aware that many people will disagree with me but have they been there and dealt with it or did they leave it to others.
Teresa
29th Aug 2014
1
Thanks for voting!
I have had two total hip replacements and Pilates has been brilliant for me. It has strengthened all my muscles especially around my new hips which helps prevent dislocation. Any move that doesn't feel comfortable I just don't do. Hope this helps
mosey 4
10th Dec 2015
0
Thanks for voting!
Yes it has actually, I have a disc removed over 28 years ago , but have noticed that I'm not a flexible as I was , even though I have been going to the gym for over 15 years, I think I'm going to give this a try .

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