“Our senior clients have had great success at 15 to Fit, which is more resistance focused than traditional Pilates. They get stronger, increase their balance and bone density and tone up overall.” ~Patrea
With statistics revealing that one in every three people older than 65 is likely to experience a fall in their lifetime, measures taken to shore up the back and core and improve strength and balance can help ensure a long, happy life.
Perhaps no one knows this better than Renee’ Millemann, owner of Coastline Pilates in Toms River, who teaches many clients in their 60s, 70s, and 80s and can confirm that Pilates is great for us as we age.
“Based on the specific conditions that tend to afflict us as we get older, Pilates is particularly beneficial for seniors,” said Millemann, who’s taught the practice for nearly 15 years and launched her Toms River-based studio in October 2016. “Out of fear of falling, seniors often take shorter steps and walk with their head down, which creates bad habits, and they also struggle with such other conditions as osteoporosis, arthritis and lower back pain, all of which impair posture and restrict deep breathing, which is essential for healthy blood flow and oxygenation of our organs.”
Happily, said Millemann, the practice of Pilates – which was founded by Joseph Pilates in the 1960s and involves a range of specialized exercises that emphasize control and are performed in a specific order to strengthen the core, abs, and back – is often the perfect antidote to many of the issues seniors deal with.
“Pilates exercises help improve posture, prevent falls, and enhance flexibility by strengthening one’s balance, promoting an erect spine to help people walk more upright, and emphasizing rotation and side bending,” said Millemann, who successfully resolved her own lower back issues by practicing Pilates.
“Great exercises for stabilizing the back and core include opposite arm and leg raises while on all fours, the ‘cat and cow’ stretch involving the Pilates ‘scoop,’ and scapular push-ups, which help strengthen the mid-back muscles and avoid hunched backs,” she said. “Plank exercises and the special Pilates series known as ‘the hundreds’ are also excellent for strengthening the back and core and promoting healthy circulation.”
For those who think Pilates is too advanced for them, Millemann encourages them to think again.
“Some seniors might be afraid that they can’t do Pilates or are hesitant to try something new, but Pilates is a mind-body exercise that helps you breathe, clears your mind, and isolates different areas and we offer specialized Pilates machines in the studio that can help support your body weight and make it easier for you. Ultimately,” she said, “Pilates gets you to move, strengthen your body, and feel great about yourself.”
Toms River resident and longtime Pilates fan Mary Lea McCrillis can attest to that.
“I’ve been doing Pilates for 20 years at various gyms and studios,” said the 83-year-old retired legal secretary, who’s been taking one-to-two classes a week at Coastline Pilates since 2016. “Pains and injuries arise in the course of living, but between physical therapy and Pilates I’ve been able to resolve them, including a shoulder injury I sustained, which is now completely cured.
“Pilates has helped me maintain my strength, balance, and flexibility and has given me more confidence,” she said. “I often see people half my age struggling to move and get into the positions that I’m able to thanks to Pilates. Renee’ really works with and takes care of all of her clients, and I recommend that all seniors try Pilates because they’ll get so much out of it.”
Millemann said that the results of Pilates speak for themselves.
“My older clients are in less pain, stand up straighter, have stronger arms and legs, and have better balance and more mobility through the hips,” she said. “In addition, given that so many seniors have grandchildren and are picking up kids again, Pilates helps them safely lift things with awareness using their belly and not their back.”
Millemann encourages seniors to try Pilates in a group or one-on-one setting and is happy to customize a class to groups or individuals at any level.
“Pilates is a foundational life practice that focuses on stabilizing and properly utilizing our internal deep muscles for improved health and quality of life,” she said. “It’s an investment in your health that will help you get stronger and better in everyday life. Aging is happening anyway, but Pilates will help you age gracefully.”
Susan Bloom, Correspondent