Injury or illness can make getting into shape extremely difficult — not to mention dangerous. The same is true for trying to get fit after years of being sedentary.
Pilates is an exercise, however, that can safely be done when rehabilitating, recovering or just beginning to get fit.
For both men and women, the nonimpact exercises of Pilates may be the answer.
A German fitness expert, Joseph Pilates, developed the system more than 80 years ago for disabled World War I veterans to restore and improve their range of motion. The practice took hold with dancers and movie stars but remained expensive. But as equipment became more affordable and the emphasis on fitness grew, the popularity of Pilates spread.
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Through breathing and specific movements, Pilates exercises work to lengthen and strengthen muscles. The results are improved breathing and body alignment, more graceful movement, increased body awareness, and expanded range of motion.
In addition, more energy, less pain, more oxygen to your muscles and steadier balance make daily life easier.
A Canadian study of hospitalized patients 70 and older found that those who were given a set of Pilates exercises that could be performed in bed recovered more rapidly than a control group given a set of passive range-of-motion exercises.
Carole Carson, author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, serves as the coach for the AARPFat to Fit online community.