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6 Reasons to Start Pilates at Any Age

Exercise can ease your back pain and strengthen your bones, and getting started is easier than you think


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Pilates is an excellent choice for those looking to begin a safe, effective and fun workout. Even if you aren’t in the habit of exercising, it’s never too late to start. Pilates is possible at any age and may help prevent falls and improve joint health.

Pilates is a mind-body, low-impact exercise focusing on core muscles while improving flexibility, balance, coordination and overall strength. Pilates can be done at home with an exercise mat or reformer, in a Pilates studio with a certified trainer or at your local gym. Joining a studio gives you access to a full range of equipment, including the reformer, the most well-known Pilates equipment, which uses a spring and pulley system to build lean muscle mass. Many studios, gyms and streaming platforms offer online mat and reformer classes that you can join from home.

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“Movement and staying active is the number one thing research shows that assists in overall mobility as we age,” says Karyn Staples, owner of ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio in Peachtree City, Georgia.

A 2022 systematic review of Pilates among older adults detailed the benefits, which included building lower limb strength, increasing trunk stability, preventing falls, improving sleep and helping emotional well-being. 

Here are six reasons Pilates can improve your health and wellness regardless of age, plus three tips on getting started.

1. Better back

Back pain occurs in people of all ages but can cause more significant problems as we age. Pilates helps relieve back pain through core strengthening, increased flexibility and improved posture and spinal alignment. 

As a mind-body exercise, Pilates increases your core strength, posture and balance. Before beginning Pilates, you might go through your day without much thought to how you sit, stand and move, only to have aches and pains at bedtime. Pilates helps increase your body awareness, so you’re more likely to notice yourself slouching when tired and can self-correct. This can go a long way in helping to reduce chronic back pain.

“If I could get the posture where they look up and their eyes are facing at an anatomical level and they’re just getting that head back over shoulders, rib cage and hips, I think that would take care of so many issues,” says Madeleine Hackney, an associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and a research scientist at the Atlanta VA. “If you don’t have your posture in the right place, if you don’t have your back and your spine strong with everything you’re carrying around on these two legs, you’re going to have lots of problems there.”

Your posture can also improve respiratory function, digestion and blood circulation. Postural training through Pilates may lower your risk of herniated discs and falls. This leads us to our second reason for rolling out your Pilates mat.

2. Balance and fall prevention

Most falls happen either early or later in life. Nearly 39,000 older people died from falls from 2020 to 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that’s more than 100 deaths a day. Pilates can lower the risk of falls, especially as we age.

Though Pilates is often done lying down, several standing exercises emphasize building lower body strength, coordination and balance. Every movement in Pilates focuses on core strength and stability. This combination helps you not only stay balanced, it enables you to catch yourself before a fall happens.

Hackney says preventing falls is not just about your body but also training your mind. “If you’re out running and you’re jogging and maybe you trip and stumble but you catch yourself, that means your brain learned from that. It was there, it was primed, it was ready to catch you,” she says.

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Every time you’re able to catch yourself mid-stumble, your body and brain are even better prepared the next time it may happen.

3. Bone health

Maintaining bone health helps you prevent breaks, often triggered by falling. Women in perimenopause and menopause experience fluctuations and drops in estrogen. These hormonal shifts reduce bone tissue growth, potentially leading to lower bone density.

A 2015 study of women diagnosed with osteoporosis found increased body density in postmenopausal women who practiced Pilates for one hour, three times a week for six months. The women in the study who didn’t do Pilates continued to experience bone tissue loss. All the women had not exercised for at least six months before the research began.

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The study, published in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, found that Pilates is a safe, low-impact workout that provides strength training for bone health and bone tissue growth. If lack of exercise experience or a recent diagnosis is holding you back, it’s safe to say there is still hope for strong bones with Pilates. (Although we always recommend checking with your doctor before beginning any exercise regime, especially if you have health issues.)

4. Joint health

You won’t find intense jumping or heavy weight lifting in Pilates, a low-impact exercise. Instead, building strength through spring resistance and your body weight can help keep your joints safe and build muscle to support your joints. Pilates exercises are developed to stretch and strengthen your body simultaneously. The increased mobility and flexibility you’ll gain will help reduce stiff joints.

5. Muscular strength

Pilates builds lean muscle mass without excessively heavy weights. Traditional Pilates apparatus, including the reformer and Cadillac, use springs of varying tension levels. You’ll use your body weight on the apparatus and the mat to build strength and stability.

Pilates classes often use smaller props such as light hand weights, a foam roller and the magic circle. These can be used in various exercises to challenge your strength and coordination. You can even do Pilates in your own home with just a mat or towel.

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6. More energy

Joseph Pilates, the founder of the method, said, “When all your muscles are properly developed, you will, as a matter of course, perform your work with minimum effort and maximum pleasure.”

The strength you gain in Pilates increases your stamina for daily routines. Pilates is a low-impact exercise; however, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found it to be effective at improving the ability of the circulatory and respiratory system to supply oxygen for energy production. With consistent practice, your body will increase energy production during and after your Pilates sessions.

3 tips for getting started with Pilates at any age

1. Speak with your doctor

Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program, including Pilates. Knowing your complete medical history, they may be able to recommend a specific Pilates studio or teacher who’s experienced in any special conditions you have. Or they may highlight points about your health that should be brought to the attention of your new instructor.

2. Take a private session with a certified instructor

“Start with a private Pilates session as this allows someone to get familiar with the equipment, as it does look intimidating,” Staples says. “Joseph Pilates really created the equipment to assist people to move better. He wanted everyone to do his exercises.”

Pilates instructors complete 450 to 600 training hours with hands-on experience and pass multiple tests from a certifying organization. Be sure to work with someone well-trained and professionally certified.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are a great place to start when seeking a great instructor. Experience, personality and teaching styles vary. Sometimes, it can take meeting a few before you find the perfect match.

A one-hour private lesson can cost $50 to $150, according to Pilates Digest. Prices of group classes can vary widely — from $15 to $100 per class. Unlimited monthly memberships for Pilates classes can cost $100 to $200. YMCAs and recreation centers often have affordable classes or community pay-as-you-are-able options.

3. Start small

The best exercise goals are the ones you can achieve and make a habit. If three Pilates classes a week is daunting, start with one a week. Increase the amount once it has become a regular part of your routine.

Joseph Pilates said, “Every moment of our life can be the beginning of great things.” Remember it’s never too late to start something new, especially something that can help your health.

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