50-year-old Adrian Bell is owner and founder of Blagdon-based pilates studio, Precision Fitness, where keen stretchers can go for go for one-to-one tuition and small, relaxed classes. It’s also the only studio outside of London to offer ‘Bodhi’, a type of pilates that involves suspension ropes to improve posture, core strength and muscle tone.
Here, he reveals the benefits of pilates for the over 50s and shares some top tips on surviving your first class…
Take to the mat
As we age, the body tends to lose muscle mass – called sarcopenia – so it’s important to undertake some form of strengthening exercise(s) to maintain muscle size and usage. Aging also impacts our flexibility, as muscles and connective tissue become less elastic, and as a consequence joints may stiffen. Arthritis and general wear and tear in joints can also be common problems, resulting in achy knees, backs, elbows – the lot! The good news is that exercise can help all of the above – especially pilates, which focuses on better movement to help you feel limber and stronger all round.
Did you know?
Cardiovascular and resistance exercise can also improve blood sugar and hormone levels, while stability exercise can improve balance and proprioception.
I work with a lot of people in their 50s, 60s and over and we try and focus first and foremost on their movement – we want them to move better, without pain and more efficiently. We start by working on posture and stabilising the core muscles, before moving on from that stable base to balance and flexibility. It’s a process and everyone receives personal attention – even in a class sitting.
Time is spent improving people’s self-awareness, so that they work with their own body and are not tempted to compete with others around. Pilates is really about a person’s own development and that requires self-awareness. We also work at helping people connect to their bodies as a whole. Movements tend to work through the whole body with continuous flow.
Age is just a number
We often have clients with medical complications, but we’re able to use both large and small equipment to make movements available to them. We always find a way to help clients – age and physical health are never a barrier.
Exercise definitely boosts wellbeing – clients always feel better at the end of a session. Movement simply helps people feel better! Pilates is a mind and body exercise, in that it requires concentration and precise movement, and there’s definitely a sense of mindfulness when you focus on the movement.
Make some chums
Exercise is a great way for older people to meet new people and form new friendships. We know all of our clients well and there is definitely a sense of community at the studio – we want clients to feel at home.
Top tips on finding your pilates power
1. Practice as much as possible! Pick three or four exercises from a class which you want to improve on and do them at home in-between classes. Some good ones to try are the hundred, roll up, swan dive, spine twist and side leg kick
2. Listen to your body and make sure movements are always performed with control and are well thought through. Ask your instructor if you’re unsure
3. Always make movements functional. Include standing exercises to improve balance and proprioception
4. Practice breathing. It may sound odd, but we don’t always use the depth of our breath and the expansion of our rib cage. Be aware of it – it’ll keep you calm and help ease you into positions