Exercise for the Mature Population

ext ballAs some people grow older they have a tendency to shy away from exercise for risk of hurting themselves. In reality the truth is actually the reverse, older adults hurt themselves more by NOT exercising, than from exercising.
As we mature we tend to mainly lose strength, flexibility, balance and endurance, and an inactive lifestyle does nothing to help combat this natural degeneration. To stay strong and stable we must physically get up on our feet and get moving, only this will help prevent falls, keep us physically mobile and reduce risk of other diseases and disabilities, including dementia.
When we consider that 29% of over 65’s in Australia fall every year and 65% of hospitalisations for over 65’s are due to falls, we can understand the importance of staying strong on our feet, improving balance and being confident that the older population can get around day-to-day without risk of hurting themselves.

What changes occur in our bodies as we age?

Good question! Many physiological changes take place in our bodies as we get older, bone density decreases, particularly in those aged over 65, thus increasing the chance of osteoporosis, joints degenerate, muscular strength decreases and our gait becomes lazy – this is the main cause of injury in the older population.

older people doing PilatesSo what should we do to combat these things?

I am not suggesting that the over 65’s start training for marathons (although many certainly still do!) exercise only has to be light to moderate to really have a positive effect on the body and to start reversing some of the effects of ageing, it may start with a simple daily walk. If you are looking to increase bone density there does have to be some form of resistance training, this could include weight training, resistance bands or the springs we use in Pilates as a form of overloading muscles to build strength and prevent bone degeneration.
If we consider training for Osteoporosis, there are a few more things that should be taken into consideration, such as the benefit of strengthening the hip through all ranges of motion (flexion, Extension, adduction, abduction). Also the benefits of spinal extension and the definite avoidance of loaded spinal flexion!

older man lifting weights
Balance and functional movement are two other elements we should consider when training those over the age of 65. How can we improve how they walk, stand, get around and complete everyday tasks with ease? In Pilates, a lot of what we do in the studio is traditionally done lying down, we need to consider what changes can be made to make these movements more beneficial to these older clients.  A lot of older clients I see simply what to be able to pick their grandchildren up, run around with them in the garden or get off the floor easily after playing trains!
Whatever exercise we chose to do as we get older the benefits on our health and body are truly endless. Getting into good exercise habits in our younger years might also be the key to staying fit and active as we grow older, not seeing exercise as a chore, but as a way of getting out and enjoying life.

Tamara O’Reilly has studied Pilates for Osteoporosis with Polestar Pilates UK, and other related courses with MBodies Training Academy in Oxford, UK and BASI Pilates USA. Her experience teaching Pilates and functional movement to older clients and the changes they have seen in their bodies are endless. For more information or to answer any questions please email tamara@thepilatesworkshop.com.au. or visit www.thepilatesworkshop.com.au

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