Whatever You Do, Keep Moving

Story by Katie Kannapell Ryser

Photos by Kathryn Harrington

Our bodies love to be in motion. With 650 skeletal muscles, 206 bones, 360 joints and 46 miles of nerves — yes, I said miles — our bodies are meant to move. They are built to bend and stretch and be pushed. Like a high-performance engine, our bodies are more likely to stall and defect with inactivity or lack of exertion.

As we age, we have less natural energy. I’m reminded of this each day when I see how quick and agile my young children seem compared to me at 7 a.m. This is in stark contrast to how quick and agile I seem compared to my parents at 7 a.m.

So much of how we feel and move can be controlled by the choices we make, such as opting for the stairs instead of the elevator. Of course, things can come out of left field. I was reminded of this last summer when I my doctor informed me I had osteopenia.

“How? I’m only 38 and I drink way too much milk,” I said. I asked her what I could do to keep it from progressing to osteoporosis. “Well, that’s the good news – your new studio should take care of it,” she replied.

My doctor went on to tell me that “the best way to battle – and even reverse – osteopenia is on a Pilates reformer.” A month later we opened our studio doors, and I began my journey toward not only strengthening my bones, but the rest of my body.

And, I was not alone.

So many members of Club Pilates have come to the studio with previous injuries, back pain, spinal alignment issues, decreased muscle mass, reduced endurance levels and all of those fun things that come with aging.

Aging (not) in place

Antoinette Cogan and Carol Woo, 62.

Six years ago, Darlene Allgeier, 60, shattered the fifth metatarsal in her left foot. This left her on crutches for 10 months and resulted in lasting negative effects all over her body.

With decreased muscle mass and scar tissue built-up in her left leg, she found that other forms of exercise were not contributing to the healing process. “That all changed when I discovered Pilates,” she said.

“After all of this time searching, I had finally found the thing that was right for me,” explained Allgeier.

“Pilates has really helped with my body alignment,” she said. “Ever since I broke my foot, my hips are tilted.” She’s also noticed this exercise is aiding her knees. “Pilates is re-aligning my hips, knees and ankles the way they should be.”

Pilates 101

Working on injuries is exactly how Joseph Pilates developed this workout format. While imprisoned in an English internment camp during World War I, he used exercise as a form of rehabilitation with injured soldiers. It was during this time that he established the founding principles of Pilates — body uniformity, posture, alignment, core stability, strengthening and mind/body connection.

With classes that focus on stretching, balancing and restoring, it’s easy for seniors to find something just right for their bodies.

All Pilates classes incorporate weight bearing and strengthening exercises that help to build and maintain bone density. With a Pilates practice, you work on balance and coordination as well as spinal stability and core strengthening through your breath. All of these are essential practices as your body ages.

As Allgeier can attest, her daily Pilates routine has not only changed her body, but has shifted her mindset.

“When you get to be my age, people want to gingerly tiptoe around your age,” she said. “But I’m 60 years old and proud of being in the shape I’m in. I know so many people who are younger than me and they aren’t as fit. My advice to them is that you can’t stand still; you have to move. And I figure, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” VT