Why Pilates for Osteoporosis? As we age it becomes increasingly important to pay attention to our lifestyle in relation to age-related illness and disease. Osteoporosis is a significant problem for a large portion of the population. 75 million American men and women age 50 and older in Europe, the USA, and Japan has osteoporosis or its precursor, osteopenia. So between news articles about calcium and vitamin D; along with adverts for medication as well as the benefits of “weight-bearing exercise,” showing up everywhere, we're all hearing a great deal about this epidemic.
Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones making them fragile and more likely to break. Nobody seems to agree on the best path to take, the research appears contradictory. The only thing everyone agrees on is the benefit of exercise for Osteoporosis sufferers. Not only will exercise help maintain and build strong bones, but it can also improve balance and reflexes thereby preventing falls, the most dangerous threat to those with fragile bones. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, 60% of those who fracture a hip still cannot walk independently a year later. Clearly, the goal is to stay strong, agile, and upright.
As Pilates has gained recognition in the medical and mainstream realms as a beneficial form of exercise to address every concern from back pain to love handles, people have jumped on the bandwagon. Specifically, many have heard Pilates is a great bone-strengthening addition to a fitness regime. However, if Osteoporosis or Osteopenia is an issue, care must be taken when exercising. In particular, exercises that require flexion (forward bending) of the spine need to be avoided. This type of movement has been proved (Mayo Clinic 1984) unsafe for those suffering from the condition, increasing the potential for spinal fractures.
Alignment is a major feature in all Pilates classes. Elongating the spine, setting it up with the Pelvis, Hips, legs, feet, shoulders, and head. What better way to combat slouching than to focus on posture and spinal decompression? In addition, breathing and concentration are crucial to every exercise. When you're grounded in your mind your body will respond accordingly. With this added awareness and concentration you may be less likely to trip and fall. Attending classes in Pilates for Osteoporosis is a definite advantage.
Balance and control play a large role in the Pilates repertoire. Whether you're on the mat or using Professional Pilates equipment. Pilates is a whole-body experience promoting symmetry in muscles together with good body mechanics; with continuous emphasis on deep abdominals (core) those stabilising muscles in the low back and pelvis. When these muscles are active and effective enough to support the body in movement, less effort is needed to maintain an upright posture reducing the risk of falling.
So should you avoid Pilates if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia? Certainly not. You do however need to ensure your teacher is well trained, with experience dealing with your condition. Consider attending a class geared toward those with the condition, especially if it's a group. At the very least, avoid the rolling exercises or ones that involve bending forward or uncontrolled movement. Also, while lying on your back, keep your head on the ground, perhaps with a small towel underneath, when others are lifting their heads off the mat. A good teacher will always give this option even to those without bone density issues.
On the positive side, all exercises done lying on your side or stomach, as well as on your hands and knees, are excellent. Just inform your teacher before class about your situation. Private Pilates sessions are excellent for those with osteoporosis and osteopenia for the reasons mentioned above as well as for the increase in flexibility. You just need to be aware of necessary modifications, as well as know that your teacher is knowledgeable. The benefits of Pilates are numerous when you take responsibility for your condition.
Exercise is recommended by the Osteoporosis Society - it's a proven way to maintain the quality movement.
For further information and help with Pilates For Osteoporosis contact me at Nuala@nualacoombspilates.com