Aging Consciously: The Pilates Way
As we age, many of us allow ourselves to slow down, accepting this as a fact of growing older. Yet, there is no reason that we should act a certain way when we get to be a specific age. The fact is, there is nothing prohibiting us from pursuing the things that interest us, if our bodies are in good physical and mental health.

October 17th 2009 - As we age, many of us allow ourselves to slow down, accepting this as a fact of growing older. Yet, there is no reason that we should act a certain way when we get to be a specific age. The fact is, there is nothing prohibiting us from pursuing the things that interest us, if our bodies are in good physical and mental health.

"We retire too early and we die too young, our prime of life should be in the 70xs and old age should not come until we are almost 100x. Joseph Pilates, who developed the Pilates Method, a unique approach to mind-body fitness in the 1920's."

We are constantly reminded that regular exercise, several times a week, is crucial to good health and a longer life. As we age, there are increased benefits from physical activity. Exercise has been shown to improve our resistance to disease, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve concentration. It also helps increase muscle tone, endurance, motor skills and balance.

The term "move it or lose it" is an accurate analogy. Our bodies are designed to move. As we age we lose one third of our muscle mass between 20 to 80 years of age. When we are sedentary, we increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and many other ailments. Regular weight bearing exercise is the key to aging consciously getting to know your own body and fulfilling both itxs physical and mental needs. Exercising both the mind and body, can help you preserve an active and independent lifestyle as you grow older.

The Pilates Method (pronounced puh-LAH-teez) is a blend of Eastern and Western philosophies including elements of Yoga, martial arts, strength and endurance training, and gymnastics. Developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920's, the technique consists of over 600 exercises, designed to engage both the mind and the body. These exercises consist of precisely controlled movements that increase strength, flexibility, endurance, muscle tone without adding bulk, joint range of motion, and improve postural alignment.

In conventional workouts, weak muscles tend to get weaker as the strong muscles get stronger. The resulting muscular imbalance is the primary cause of chronic back pain and injury. The Pilates Method of body conditioning considers the body as a single unit, rather than focusing on specific muscle groups, retraining the entire body to work more efficiently. Pilates is unlike typical weight training programs, which isolate and focus on one muscle or group. This unique technique works against resistance with springs or gravity to focus on the muscular relationships needed to perform the movements. Pilates elongates and strengthens the muscle, developing muscular elasticity, joint mobility, and proper postural alignment, thus stimulating the circulatory system. This effectively slows the aging process, helping you develop essential flexibility, muscle mass and bone density. Exercises can be adapted to each individuals level of proficiency, and those with special needs are easily accommodated.

Utilizing highly specialized equipment, the focus of Pilates is on "core conditioning", the strengthening and stabilization of the spine, abdominal muscles, and pelvis. Core conditioning is important because the torso is involved in every functional movement, such as bending over, sitting, or getting out of bed. There are also exercises utilizing a moveable surface, which challenges the muscles of the feet, hands and pelvis to adapt and react to variable proprioceptive input. The joints in our body have nerve receptors that inform our brain of the exact position and motion of our limbs as we move. This is called proprioception, which is vital to coordination and efficient movement. Even if our muscles are strong, they cannot protect the joints and coordinate movement and balance if they do not receive the proper message. This correct utilization of the body's natural lever systems, makes Pilates an innovative and effective system of exercise. Working with resistance in the way muscles are designed to function, and not against natural mechanics, Pilates retrains the entire body to work more efficiently, helping you to enjoy daily activities and sports with greater ease and less chance of injury. Developing a body that is agile and structurally sound, also plays an important role in the prevention and management of diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage, the tissue that cushions the joints. As the joint tissue breaks down, the most significant symptoms are pain and stiffness. The pain arises because the cartilage, which separates and protects the joint, no longer allows the bone ends to glide smoothly. Composed of about two thirds water, cartilage is designed to reduce friction and force as we move by soaking up synovial fluid which lubricates the joint. When pressure is exerted on the joint, the fluid seeps out of the cartilage, absorbing and dispersing the force. When there is no pressure on the joint, the cartilage quickly fills with the nourishing, cushioning fluid. With Osteoarthritis, regular exercise will help relieve and often halt symptoms by increasing your strength, and the flow of synovial fluid to the cartilage, which lubricates your joint and promotes healing. The improvement of strength and flexibility of the muscles surrounding each joint, also protects them from excessive jarring and force from the weight of your body. Not exercising is harmful for damaged joints. Just as with our muscles, you must use the joint to maintain mobility. It is only by exercising that we can stimulate the flow of synovial fluid in and out of the cartilage, and strengthen the muscles, tendons, and supporting joints.

The greatest cause of injury to a joint is caused by muscular imbalances that disrupt proper biomechanics. Many people believe that damage to the joints is caused by direct trauma or as the result of an accident. However, most damage is simply the result of standing, walking, lifting, lying, twisting, or sitting incorrectly. These normal movements can lead to joint problems over a period of time, if they are not performed correctly. The term for this is "relative overuse", which occurs when the forces applied by everyday activities are not evenly distributed throughout the body. Take walking for example. When you walk your weight alternates from one leg to the other. If your body is not in correct alignment and one hip is thrusting outward, then your bodyxs weight is not transmitted through your whole leg, but only the part that is in the hips direct path of force. If the force is excessive it can damage the knee. This wear and tear has a cumulative effect, leading eventually to osteoarthritis. The Pilates Method of body conditioning corrects muscular imbalances, which improves your postural alignment. This allows the force of the weight of your own body to be evenly dispersed through the bones, joints, and muscles to minimize damage. Correct postural alignment positions the body so that it absorbs force or motion over as broad an area as possible, minimizing the risk of developing joint problems.

Osteoporosis is a widespread skeletal disease mostly affecting post-menopausal women, though from the age of 65, men and women have about the same risk of developing the disease. It can strike at any age, and 20% bone loss can occur in women during the 5-7 years after menopause. The disease is characterized by a loss of bone density, decreasing mechanical support and increasing the risk of developing fractures. Many cases of osteoporosis can be prevented. Other cases can be controlled to reduce the risk of fracture and disability. Utilizing the Pilates Method you can decrease your risk of falling, the most common cause of fractures, by enhancing muscular strength, balance and coordination. For those at risk of osteoporosis, or currently living with the disease, exercise is important in the treatment thereof as it helps to increase bone density and slow down the rate of loss that occurs with aging. The most common joints affected are the knees, hips, fingers, feet, and spine. However, it can often be successfully treated and is not an inevitable symptom of aging.

It has been shown in various studies, that strength gains and increases in bone density can be made even in octogenarians, with the correct physical activity and nutritional intake. Through exercise, and challenging the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems, further bone loss can be prevented as we increase balance and coordination. Both of these components are intrinsic in the Pilates Method.

When considering participation in any exercise program, consult with your physician first. If you receive an exercise referral from your doctor, bring the referral form as well as information regarding medications you are currently taking when you first meet with your fitness trainer. Be prepared to complete a client profile and medical history, and to discuss your fitness goals and expectations. You should then receive a physical assessment. This should include an analysis of balance, flexibility, strength, joint range of motion, posture, and gait. Be certain the trainer you choose is a certified instructor, with a minimum of several years of teaching experience.

Participating in a regular exercise program is the key to conscious aging! Nothing should prohibit you from engaging in physical or intellectual pursuits at 50, 65, or 80 -- be it golfing, pursuing an advanced degree, playing with your grandchildren, traveling the world, or competing in triathlons -- if you are in good health!

PHYLLIS DOUGLASS (Principle Trainer, Owner of Equilibrium Fitness in La Verne, CA) is a Nationally Certified Pilates Trainer (CPT) through the Pilates Method Alliance, a Post Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist (Pink Ribbon Program), Certified TRX Suspension Trainer, and certified Master Sound Healer utilizing Himalayan Singing Bowls. Phyllis teaches primarily in the Classical Pilates tradition focused on the original Pilates Method as developed by Joseph Pilates. She has studied through apprenticeship and intensively with Siri Dharma Galliano, Peter Fiasca, and first generation Pilates elders Jay Grimes, Kathy Grant, Mary Bowen, and Ron Fletcher. She received her Pilates certification through the teacher training program at Long Beach Dance Conditioning & Movement Academy with master teacher, Marie Jose Blom-Lawrence, and studied with Rael Isacowitz (BASI), among others. She sustains her education and training with yearly study through conferences, and workshops. Mindful that the concept of Pilates is that the body functions holistically, her objective is to restore the body to a place of balance physically, mentally, and spiritually!

Teaching since 1988, she has an extensive background in dance; performing and teaching professionally throughout the United States, Middle East, and Europe. She holds a M.F.A. in Dance from California Institute of the Arts, and a B.S. in Education with a minor in Biomechanics from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

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Contact Member:
Equilibrium Fitness - The Center of Pilates & Move
2019 Foothill Boulevard
La Verne, CA 91750
United States