According to a new study from the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, the higher level of fitness we reach in our lives, the higher our fitness level will remain as we age. Here is how Pilates can help you age like a former athlete.
1 – Increased VO2 Max
The study measured the fitness levels of former Olympians over a period of 45 years. Due to their sustained training, they were found to have a higher than average VO2 max. VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen an individual is able to use during intense physical exertion. It is built over time by sustained, frequent exercise. By keeping up your regular Pilates schedule, you are building up your VO2 max!
2 – Increased Lung Capacity
Another key aspect of greater than average health in former Olympians was a larger than average lung capacity. While VO2 max measures your ability to utilize oxygen, lung capacity measures the amount of oxygen you are able to take in. Pilates is highly effective in increasing lung capacity not only due to its measured and deliberate breath patterns, but also due to postural corrections that allow the lungs to expand further.
3 – Increased Balance
Pilates is highly effective in increasing balance in that it works to create muscular symmetry and correct alignment. Balance becomes more important as we age, as it lowers our risk of falling. The older we get, the more likely we are to experience an injury from a fall. The more we practice Pilates, the better our balance, and it’s never too late to begin practicing!
4 – Minimal Impact on Joints
Unlike high-impact sports like running, Pilates is easy on the joints. A low-impact practice, sustained Pilates does not cause wear and tear on joints and in fact reinforces healthy patterns of motion and activation of deep core muscles. Not only are you getting a workout in your Pilates class, but you are also contributing to your long-term joint health.
5 – Increased Flexibility
By moving the spine and joints from flexion to extension, internal rotation to external rotation and side-bending, Pilates increases flexibility and range of motion throughout the body. Over time, this reduces low back pain and joint stiffness, while allowing for more ease of motion during our day to day activities.
One thing that all of the athletes had in common as they aged? They never stopped exercising, except during periods of illness or injury. The study concluded that the fitness level the athletes attained in their prime, along with regular exercise as they aged, led to a greater than average level of fitness in their old age.
If you’re already practicing Pilates, your future self with thank you! If you’re not practicing yet, it’s never too late to begin.