How Pilates and PT help you stay active as you get older
with advice from Rachelle Hill, PT, MSPT, CSCS,
Kristina Holland, PTA,
Jessica Loncar, PT, MS, OCS, Cert. MDT,
and Mika Yoshida, CSCS, EP-C
As we grow older, our bodies change. While it may sound counterintuitive, staying active is the best solution when our joints start to ache and our energy starts to fade. (Isaac Newton probably had no idea he was also talking about the human body when he explained that a body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion remains in motion.)
Two ways to remain in motion as we age are physical therapy and Pilates. As we’ve pointed out in the past, physical therapy helps maintain and improve your health as you age. “Therapy helps to promote an increased awareness of your body,” says physical therapist Rachelle Hill. At Moreau Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in Louisiana), Rachelle and her fellow PTs apply therapy to improve posture and reduce back pain, evaluate gait to make walking more efficient and less painful, and improve balance to reduce the risk of falls, she explains.
In addition, if you’re exercising incorrectly or compensating because of pain, you’re at risk of doing more harm than good. “Doing the wrong exercise or doing an exercise incorrectly can result in more pain or even joint damage,” notes Kristina Holland, a physical therapist assistant at Clinton Physical Therapy Center in Clinton, Tennessee. Physical therapist Jessica Loncar agrees. She points out that exercise in a safe, controlled environment under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist goes a long way toward improving quality of life. A STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor and Instructor Trainer for MERRITHEW™ (a Physiquality partner), Jessica reminds us that physical therapy is good for improving strength, balance, mobility and overall fitness.
Pilates exercises are designed to restore the natural curves of the spine and rebalance the muscles around the joints, with a focus on core stability, pelvic and shoulder girdle stabilization, neutral alignment and breathing. Pilates and physical therapy go hand in hand in teaching efficient movement patterns, which will keep us healthy as we age, explains Rachelle. Because Pilates focuses on proper back alignment and strengthening and lengthening the spine, she says, the back becomes stronger, preventing early wear and tear and reducing pain, as well as the risk of injury. This is key to staying active as one ages, as back pain often causes people to quit exercising for fear of further pain.
Many physical therapists often incorporate Pilates into their rehabilitation programs because of how it can be used to strengthen the body and improve flexibility with low-impact exercises. Mika Yoshida, a Pilates instructor at the Take Charge Fitness Program at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, notes that this is especially beneficial after an injury or joint surgery, when one often loses range of motion in the affected joint. And while some of her students blame their lack of flexibility on their age, Mika reminds them that incorporating Pilates exercises into their daily or weekly regimen can improve their flexibility, regardless of their age.
If you’re dealing with joint pain or haven’t exercised in a while, Pilates is an excellent way to ease back into a more active lifestyle. A certified instructor like Jessica will know how to adapt exercises for your specific body and work with you to grow stronger. And if you take a class at a physical therapy clinic, you may end up with a physical therapist like Rachelle teaching your class. This means that she’ll zero in on any musculoskeletal weaknesses you have, and, if you need it, recommend coming into the clinic as a patient.
Practicing Pilates, says Mika, is like maintaining your car: You get an oil change for your car so that it can run for another 5,000 miles. You practice Pilates so that your body continues to move efficiently for years!
Rachelle Hill, PT, MSPT, CSCS, is a physical therapist at Moreau Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member with several locations in Louisiana. Rachelle has more than 10 years of physical therapy experience and is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She specializes in treating musculoskeletal injuries, with a passion for treating running injuries, and is a trained Pilates instructor.
Kristina Holland, PTA, has been a physical therapist assistant for more than 7 years at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in Clinton, Tennessee. She enjoys working with a variety of orthopedic patients, including those with joint replacements, hand injuries, and cervical and back pain.
Jessica Loncar, PT, MS, OCS, Cert. MDT, is a physical therapist and STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor and Instructor Trainer for MERRITHEW™, a Physiquality partner. Jessica incorporates Pilates into her physical therapy treatment of clients, specializing in acute and chronic spine conditions, sacroiliac joint dysfunction and orthopedic manual therapy. She is also a credentialed McKenzie Institute® therapist.
Mika Yoshida, CSCS, EP-C, is a fitness instructor at the Take Charge Fitness Program at Clinton Physical Therapy Center. Certified as both a strength and conditioning specialist and an exercise physiologist, Mika teaches a variety of classes covering Pilates, balance, strength and posture.
For further reading, look through our selection of articles on health and wellness, in addition to the below links:
The first and second laws of motion. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Pilates: Aid for low back pain. IDEA Fitness Journal, January 2010.