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Pilates for Seniors Classes in Long Beach, CA

Here's a dirty little secret, and we won't tell if you won't. Baby boomers are the new seniors.

If you prefer to be a Boomer, that's okay, today's seniors are a far cry from Granny in the rocking chair complaining of arthritis. If you've got a little arthritis yourself, by all means try the homegrown remedy of golden raisins soaked in gin (eat the raisins, use your judgment with the gin), but get serious about a fitness program that's tailored for strength and flexibility.

Pilates, Defined

Joseph Pilates, a German, was living in London during WWI and was interned by the British as an enemy alien. In reality, Pilates was a bodybuilder and had a deep interest in what we now call physiology and physical therapy. He had studied anatomy, as well as Eastern exercises like tai chi, and yoga, in his pursuit of a better and stronger physique. He worked as a nurse during the war and developed rehabilitative exercises for wounded soldiers. His methods involved using springs, trapezes, and pulleys attached to the hospital beds since many of his patients were bedridden.

Following the war, Pilates moved to New York City. By then, the modified hospital bed had transformed into the Reformer, a flat sliding surface with the springs and pulleys he had first used in England. His first clients were a far cry from injured soldiers, they were ballet dancers from the New York City Ballet. When the most toned and fit athletes in the world went to Pilates for strength and flexibility conditioning, the rest of the world took notice. Since then, elite athletes and garden-variety gym rats alike have benefited from the Pilates method of slow, concentrated movements that focus on the body's core--abdominal, pelvic, hip, and back muscles.
Pilates, now over a hundred years old, has caught on recently as the "new" way for seniors to improve and maintain posture, balance, strength, flexibility, and stamina.

Core Strength Combats Aging

Today's seniors are the first generation in history to have lived an indoor, sedentary lifestyle. The downside of this first world advantage is that most of us aren't as physically ready to battle aging bones and muscles as our grandparents. And, we're living longer--so the aches and pains that go along with a long and happy life are more pronounced when you're a hale and hearty 80. Pilates for seniors can really alleviate some of the physical symptoms that go along with getting older.

How Pilates Works

At its core, Pilates is a series of low impact, precise exercises that are done slowly and purposefully. There is intent behind each movement, with methodical breathing (in through the nostrils, out through the mouth); focus on isolated muscles, and slow, controlled movements. Stretching in Pilates is both gentle and intense--you're doing it so slowly that you don't realize how your flexibility has gotten better--without pain--until it's happened. After a few weeks of Pilates, you will notice you're sitting up straighter, can move about more easily, and have more stamina.

Here's the biggest point in favor of a Pilates program--IT DOESN'T HURT. Pilates was designed to heal. The concentrated, focused movements allow your muscles to adapt to the new position slowly, so without the muscle trauma and tears, you'd get with a faster, more high-impact program. This is not to say that you won't feel some tightness as your muscles recover, but this is the polar opposite of "no pain, no gain". Pilates offers gain without pain.

What Pilates for Seniors Can Do For You

These are some of the physical benefits of Pilates – not just for seniors, but for anyone who wants to be stronger and has more balance and stamina. For Boomers with osteoporosis, arthritis, or stenosis, Pilates for seniors can provide measurable outcomes.

  • Increased bone density
  • Increased muscle mass for bone support
  • Better balance, to counter against falls
  • Better posture and spinal alignment, which helps prevent pinched nerves and spasms
  • Decrease the chance of joints compressing, while maintaining the range of motion around them

If Rheumatoid Arthritis is a problem, Pilates won't stop or slow down flare-ups. What it will do, through making your muscles stronger, is take the pressure off inflamed joints. Improved range of motion alleviates the pain and immobility associated with RA episodes since stronger muscles surround your joints now.

There is some research that indicates Pilates can help manage the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease; improved core strength may lessen are stiffness, slow movement, bladder control, and the loss of balance. Research also shows that Pilates can be beneficial to patients with Multiple Sclerosis as well.

Ancillary benefits of Pilates are stronger lung function – all that controlled breathing – and lower stress.

Beginning Pilates

Check with your health care professionals before you begin a Pilates for seniors class, and if you have osteoporosis, see a physical therapist to determine any exercises you should avoid--bending forward, rolling on your back, or twisting your spine are probably going to be no-nos. Tell your class instructor what your limitations are, and they are happy to give you alternative movements.

John Garey Fitness and Pilates has classes and equipment safe for seniors who are just starting Pilates; these are three good beginner classes.

This is a basic class for anyone beginning Pilates. Students use the Reformer for exercises, and after a few weeks will see increased body awareness, a stronger core, and have better balance and posture.

Lying down and exercising on the Reformer has many ways to increase your mobility. If you're already somewhat flexible, this is the class for you – you'll maintain and improve range of motion while you get stronger.

Avoiding falls is entirely too much of a pastime for many of the older Boomers. Taking a Balance class strengthens, stretches, and improves your posture. In this class, you'll learn simple ways to get better balance, and you can practice at home – no Reformer needed.

Seniors--or Baby Boomers, whichever you prefer – are cooler than ever. Even AARP has digital Tommy Bahama coupons these days. John Garey Fitness and Pilates is where the cool kids go to start a Pilates program or integrate it into your existing fitness plan. Another good reason to drop by for a free consultation? Lots of your peers are also doing Pilates, and you'll have a built-in group of fun, fit new friends – you keep taking advantage of all the hiking, biking, and other activities Southern California has to offer.