5 Health Benefits Of Midlife Pilates

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25 January 2023

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Image above: Grandmother Josie Jamieson, 67, (pictured) loves Pilates.

Movement is important for women at any age, but it is crucial when you get to the “midlife years”, which can start roughly from your 40s.

A safe, effective, and popular way to exercise for older women is Pilates.

Pilates was developed in the early 20th Century by German physical trainer Joseph Pilates.

Pilates is a form of exercise which concentrates on strengthening the entire body with a focus on core strength, posture, balance, and flexibility. Your body weight is largely used, or a machine (called a reformer) which looks like a bed with springs, a sliding carriage, ropes, and pulleys. The machine adds more resistance to the workout.

Pilates practitioner and owner of Studio Three in Auckland, Viv Gallagher (pictured below), has clients mostly aged in their forties to sixties. Her oldest client is aged 73 “and is able to move with more ease than many of my younger clients after decades of Pilates practice”. Gallagher is in the “Midlife Pilates” group too as she is aged 60 and raves about the benefits.

5 Health Benefits of “Midlife Pilates” from Pilates Expert Viv Gallagher

1.  Pilates is Low Impact.

Aching joints is one of the most common reasons that women struggle to stick to exercise in midlife. Declining oestrogen, inflammation, and oxidative stress impact your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Pilates helps you strengthen, lengthen and release tension while being supported on the reformer bed. It is a highly effective form of resistance training. 

2.  Pilates Helps Prevent Injuries and is Great for Rehabilitation.

The reformer is a great way to manage injuries, especially back pain without putting additional stress and strain on sore joints too as you work on improving your muscle strength and joint health. Gallagher has many midlife women who have suffered from issues such as frozen shoulders, rotator cuff injuries, back, knee and sciatica pain, plantar fasciitis, fibromyalgia, and other injuries. These injuries are far more common in midlife women.

3.  Pilates Boosts a Better Night’s Sleep.

Women in the menopause years are widely known to lose sleep quality leaving them feeling too exhausted to keep up their exercise. Sleep is crucial for healing and for burning fats overnight, so the type and timing of exercise is important. High intensity exercise when you are not sleeping can create more inflammation especially at night when you need to be calming the body and lowering your cortisol levels in preparation for sleep. Lower-intensity exercise like Pilates is a safe, gentle style of movement with a focus on breath work which can help slow the stress response and improve sleep. Gallagher recommends morning exercise and restorative movement in the evenings is best. 

4.  Pilates Inspires Good Posture.

Your posture can make you appear youthful or aged. It impacts your movement and your biomechanics too. Pilates improves posture and alignment helping to prevent and correct the all too common forward head posture and rounded upper back by addressing muscular imbalances.

5.  Pilates Improves Coordination, Balance, and Cognition.

Pilates is brilliant for your brain. It requires a calm focus and concentration on precise, controlled movements which can also help to reduce anxiety, which is another common symptom of menopause. Better coordination and spatial awareness help you to build new neural pathways in the brain and can help prevent injury and falls. Some older women can become accident prone and struggle with brain fog and so Pilates can be helpful with these issues.  Pilates helps to “calm the chaos” for midlife women who are often juggling lots of demands (i.e work, family, ageing parents etc). Pilates is time out from the stress and a way to have self-care time to nurture your body, mind, and soul. Harnessing stress better is known to help slow the ageing process also.

One of Gallagher’s star Pilates clients is this gorgeous Grandma Josie Jamieson.

Aged 67, Josie is a mum to three grown children and grandmother to seven grandchildren. She works as a shop assistant for the elegant fashion label, Gregory, in Auckland.

She used to do weight training but switched to Pilates 15 years ago after discovering a Pilates studio and loving it after giving it a go.

She credits her “healthy ageing” to this movement practice – as well as a weekly walk, healthy diet, a positive mindset and being amongst vibrant younger people like her grandkids.

She finds Pilates a good challenge. She also enjoys the professional environment with expert teachers, comradery with others, and loves that the studio is full of positive encouragement.

“One knows one is safe at the same time as being encouraged to go beyond what you might believe your limits are,” she says.

Jamieson wants to encourage other women to keep fit.

“It makes you feel good and if you feel good you are better able to face the world”.

Meanwhile, Gallagher also coaches her clients in lifestyle solutions for navigating menopause, which she says is “often a vulnerable time for women’s health”.

She recommends a Mediterranean way of eating in your midlife, saying it is evidence-based to be the best for your changing heart-health, gut health, brain health and longevity. The diet helps to reduce inflammation in the body which increases with age. This diet is full of antioxidants and the nutrients that you need along with lots of good, healthy fats. 

“So, things like extra virgin olive oil, which is great for your joints and increases your good cholesterol. Tip olive oil over your salads, add it to your smoothies and drizzle over your tomatoes and put avocado on sourdough. It’s not a diet but a way of enjoying great food that’s great for you”.

Four other Pilates Studios to Try in New Zealand:

Strong Pilates, Auckland

You get personalised instructions here with expert Pilates staff. We love the attention to detail, especially the bathrooms equipped with hairdryers and straighteners.

My Pilates, Wellington 

The staff in this stunning studio will help you move better, feel better, breathe better and sleep better.

Adapted Yoga and Pilates, Christchurch

This studio offers services at three venues, online, or even one-on-one at your place.

Form Pilates Studio, Queenstown

This place combines Pilates, the wisdom of physiotherapy, and movement science to uplift your body, mind and spirit.

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