Joseph Pilates – the inventor of pilates – once said that anyone who is stiff and out of shape at 30 is old, while someone who is supple and strong at 60 is still young.
Pilates worked in a circus and developed the pilates method of exercise during the first world war to improve posture and flexibility for dancers and performers of all ages.
Pilates didn’t set out to develop a suberb anti aging exercise method for the over 40’s but that’s exactly what pilates turned out to be. If you haven’t tried pilates yet – you should.
The popularity of pilates really took off from the 1980’s as the results of the pilates program became well known – not harmed of course by a rush of celebrity endorsements. But the enthusiasm for pilates lasted and pilates in one form or another has become the celebrity exercise method of choice.
A huge list of celebrities who do pilates have spoken out about its benefits. The list of celebrity pilates devotees is almost endless. Jennifer Anniston, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Hugh Grant, John Cleese – all have declared themselves huge fans of the pilates method.
Over the years – the original pilates program has developed and nowadays there are more than 500 different exercises in the pilates manual.
‘Pilates is the only exercise programme that has changed my body and made me feel great.’ (Jamie Lee Curtis)
Although pilates is a physical activity – it isn’t a cardiovascular workout and in so many ways it is ideal as an anti aging exercise program. Lots of women take up pilates in their 40’s, 50’s and older and whatever your age when you start – you won’t have to worry about your body not coping with pilates.
“In ten sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference, and in 30 you will have a whole new body”. Joseph Pilates
Pilates is a total system of exercises which is designed to build your body’s core strength gradually through balancing, stretching and correct breathing techniques.
Core strength exercise is vital as we get into middle age and beyond.
Strengthening your body’s core improves your flexibility – stiffness and lack of fluid movement are so often associated with an aging body. Core muscles protect your spine and build bone density and strength – vital for older women and essential to keep the risk of osteoporosis and back problems at bay.
‘I’m a Pilates person. It’s great. I had a hip problem. I had a chronic back, a pinched nerve and a hip problem and it’s completely solved all of it. I love it. It makes me feel like I’m taller.’ (Jennifer Anniston)
When it comes to safe exercise – pilates tops the list. Physiotherapists and doctors regularly recommend pilates as one of the best exercise routines for overall general fitness and body awareness. Many times women starting pilates later in life have been recommended by their doctors.
Top level sports physios use pilates to get their clients back in trim after injury or long periods of immobility. Pilates techniques and exercises also form the basis of routines practised by professional dancers and performers to improve co-ordination, balance and flexibility.
Another reason pilates is so good as an anti aging exercise – pilates exercises can be tailored to your level of fitness. If you go to a private pilates teacher you get a unique set of exercises from the pilates manual based on your own postural habits and problems. The teacher should work with you to gradually build up your flexibility and core strength.
You can achieve much the same thing by joining a pilates class – which is what I did. Just check out that your class is run by a fully trained pilates teacher. Start with the beginner class and then as you gain experience you can move up to pro level slowly.
When I first joined the class – we spent a while doing breathing exercises and getting our balance and posture right – way before we even attempted any exercises. We then moved on to the lowest level of exercises and took it very gently. Your pilates teacher should watch out for every member of the class and make sure that you can cope with each exercise.
It’s very easy to move your pilates sessions into your home. There’s also a great range of books and DVD’s available to help you practise at home. Or you can just repeat the exercises you do in class – the great thing is with pilates – you don’t need expensive home gym equipment. All you need is a mat and comfortable clothes. You don’t even need a lot of room – pilates was designed to be done in a confined space.
Doing any form of regular exercise is great for reducing stress – but pilates is one of the best you could do for stress. Concentrating on holding the pilates positions during the exercise sessions and deep breathing techniques are both extremely beneficial in relieving stress – in much the same way that Yoga is.
Unlike yoga – pilates doesn’t tie you in knots or get you to put your body in any position that is uncomfortable. The risk of injury is much lower – especially for beginners or women over 40 who don’t take other forms of regular exercise.
Once you get hooked on pilates – you’ll find it is something you can carry on doing for many years – wherever you are. Retaining suppleness and core strength is vital for anti aging health and pilates is probably the best anti aging exercise you’ll find.