When women reach the age of 40, it is considered a milestone and a phase of transition as well. The body undergoes several physical changes – aching joints, wrinkles, poor vision, onset of menopause, sleeping problems, irritability, high blood pressure, and the list just keeps adding up. But C.S Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” And he was right about it. Age is but a number. There are still so many things that can be accomplished, places to go, people to meet, and things to do. One of the most important is getting or staying fit, healthy and strong.
While being physically active has its positive effects on the body, many women in the older category can no longer engage themselves in activities or sports that involve agility or high impact, such as running and gymnastics. Fortunately, there is a safe, powerful and fun alternative for older women when it comes to staying active – Pilates. And the benefits of Pilates for women over 40 are just as many as doing high impact sports.
The Pilates method of physical fitness was the brainchild of German physical trainer and fitness innovator Joseph Hubertus Pilates during the 1920s. As a child, Joseph suffered from a poor health condition due to asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. But that all changed when he became a teenager, and it was because of his determination to improve his health and physical strength. His father introduced him to body-building, boxing, gymnastics, and jiu-jitsu. Upon moving to England in 1912, he worked there as a circus performer professional boxer, and even as a self-defense trainer at Scotland Yard. Combining all the knowledge he had gathered in various physical activities, he invented a unique series of powerful physical movements that would help in improving muscular tone, balance, coordination, posture, strength, flexibility, and the functions of various body organs, plus increasing breathing capacity.
More often than not, doctors and physiotherapists advocate Pilates as a great type of exercise for comprehensive fitness and body awareness. A lot of women aged 40 and over who choose Pilates as a form of low-impact physical activity have been advised by their doctors, especially those who suffer from bad posture, back problems or poor bone health. Aside from being a superb full-body workout, Pilates is also considered as an anti-aging exercise. This is because it can be customized to the individual’s fitness level. Each participant gets a unique set of physical movements based on their postural issues and habits.
Pilates does not involve getting the body in an uncomfortable position or forming various knots – one of the reasons why it is a great form of overall body training for older women. Rather, it is specifically devised to slowly build the core strength of the body by means of stretching, balancing, and proper breathing methods. Body movements done during Pilates are all dynamic and coordinated, therefore promoting a series of motions in all the joints. In Pilates, the muscles are not subjected to exhaustion, so straining and sweating are eliminated. Deep concentration and relaxation is all you need. Pilates is also beneficial for an individual’s psychological development, promoting mind-body interaction. The risk of suffering an injury is very low. This is especially true for Pilates amateurs and women over the age of 40 who do not perform other types of exercises. If you have seen a Pilates video or class, the moves they perform may seem simple enough at first. But in reality, it takes a lot of precision and control, as well as emphasis on breathing together with muscle strengthening.
As women go beyond the age of 40, they can sometimes experience stiffness which is mostly a sign of aging. With the help of Pilates, reinforcing the body’s core will enhance flexibility. Core muscles are essential because they serve as the spine’s safeguard, and they also help in building bone density and strength – factors which are important for older women, as well as avoiding the risk of osteoporosis.
Whether you decide to have one-on-one Pilates sessions or join a small group, make sure that your instructor is qualified and fully trained. Do not be afraid to ask in-depth questions or even ask where they got their training and certificate from. Your instructor should be able to work with you in slowly building up your core strength and flexibility. If you choose to be in a group, start with the beginner class. You can then move along to advanced levels once you have gained enough experience. You can also do additional Pilates sessions at home – there is an abundance of books and CD’s available in bookstores and sports stores. What’s fantastic about Pilates is that there is no need for fancy exercising equipment – a mat, training clothes, and determination are all you need. Pilates was designed to be performed in a space with limited capacity, so it does not really require a lot of room.