As you get older, staying in shape becomes more important than ever.
But if you’re put off exercise because you don’t like running or competitive team sports, rest assured that there are more options available.
Pilates, for example, has become one of the world’s leading physical fitness systems over the last 50 years and it shows no sign of waning. But what exactly is Pilates – and what are its benefits?
In many ways, Pilates is similar to yoga, the ancient Indian physical and spiritual practice that’s now very popular in the west. But Pilates is a much more recent invention, and was developed by the German Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Like yoga, it is typically taught in classes of varying sizes, and each student has a soft oblong mat on which various routines are performed.
Essentially, Pilates exercises help to condition the body, improving muscle strength, flexibility and balance, and helping to develop a strong centre. There are six Pilates principles:
If you attend a Pilates class, you’ll find that the variety of exercises you have to perform will incorporate these principles in various combinations. So by the end of your class – which usually lasts around an hour – your body will have engaged in all six principles.
As in yoga, breathing plays an especially important role, with students encouraged to breathe in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth, expelling all hair from the lungs. Try closing your eyes and practising this routine for a few minutes to test if you would enjoy Pilates. For some people, simply breathing in this manner helps them re-connect with their body and can bestow a sense of calm.
Free videos you can try at home
If you want to give Pilates a go, here’s a handful of the best videos you can try for free at home from the comfort of your living room.
Standing Pilates for the 60+ age group
Short Pilates strength workout for women over 50
Introductory Pilates workout for women over 50
Short and simple daily stretching exercises
Pilates for back pain from the NHS
35-minute beginner pilates class