Pilates for Balance
Acquiring and maintaining good balance is greatly beneficial for adults as prevention for falls, injury, and loss of independence. Pilates and balance go hand in hand with its positive effects on strength and coordination. This decreases the fear of falling, which often leads to a reduction of movement and lack of mobility.
Balance is required in daily activities such as walking, getting up and down from a chair or the ground, picking up or carrying objects and catching oneself from a near fall. Numerous studies have shown that Pilates exercises can improve balance and gait with an effective increase in muscle strengthening and specific balance training.
Loss of Balance
Improving balance and coordination as we age is vital to one’s quality of life. Statistics show that after our 30’s and early 40’s both begin to decrease. The great news is that a lot can be done to improve balance, including practicing Pilates 2-3 times per week and incorporating mindful habits to your daily routine. For the majority of the aging population, a ‘bent forward posture’ results from the muscles of the spine and trunk weakening thus losing the ability to stabilize and protect. Muscle stiffness and imbalance, amongst other things, factor into a diagnosis of Osteoporosis.
‘Bent forward posture’ with the fear of falling, starts to limit ankle mobility where a step becomes a shuffle or a dragging of the feet. This leads to immobilization, stiffness, and actually more chances for falling.
Prevention is the key. There should be a focus on exercises to improve balance which includes strengthening the muscles of the spine and trunk for an upright posture as well as working on the lower body, especially the feet and ankles. For improvement in balance and coordination, specific balance training must be included in one’s exercise regime. Training balance in different body positions not only challenges the body but also results in improved balance, coordination and reaction time.
There are numerous modifications individuals can implement into their daily lives as well as apply to classes. The use of props such as a dowel or broomstick can be held along the spine to encourage length and ideal posture during exercises or just as a reminder for daily use.
When practicing balancing on one leg one can use the wall or a chair for support and as your balance improves you can rely on it less. To encourage sitting up tall during Mat exercises add props such as pillows or sturdy books to elevate your trunk from your legs — this will provide more ease to gain length in your torso. For additional modifications refer to videos Computer Slump Fix, and Can’t Sit Up Straight.
Tips and Precautions
The following are some tips to incorporate for balance exercises in everyday life or in class:
- For balancing, be near a wall or counter or use a sturdy prop
- Remember to breathe
- When balancing feel your whole foot connected to the floor
- Use the concept of opposition – push down into the floor to go up through the body
- Take your time to warm up and slow down for twisting movements
- Use your eyes to focus on one point when balancing