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Pilates for Strengthening

by | Aug 14, 2021 | Articles, Pilates for Menopause

One of my goals for myself as my date of birth is retreating is not just to be fit but more specifically to be strong. I have lifted weights and chucked the odd medicine ball in my time, but I love the almost infinite range of strengthening exercises offered by the vast Pilates repertoire. With the addition of the humble resistance band, a couple of hand weights and bodyweight exercises we can definitely meet the strength and conditioning requirements of mid-life.

Why focus on strength?

One of the most striking effects of ageing is the involuntary loss of muscle mass termed sarcopenia. Muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. Reference

This loss of muscle mass, results in a secondary loss of strength and ultimately impairs function. Do you hear yourself making noises as you get up out of a chair? My 17 year old son doesn’t do that! Can you get up from the floor without pushing onto your knee? Perhaps not. Loss of muscle strength is a contributor to disability in older people and sarcopenia increases our risk of falls and our vulnerability to injury.

Muscles and Menopause/Andropause

If you are looking for a simple solution you will be disappointed. Sarcopenia is a complex process that involves much more than just age-related decreases in physical activity. The interaction of changes in hormone levels and nutrition over the life span strongly contribute to this process and should not be overlooked. Each contributes to the overall loss of skeletal muscle, the increase in fatty tissue present in muscle, muscle weakness, and much more. The nature and extent of the contribution by each factor is not known and very likely to be highly individual.

The good news…

Further studies have found that both resistance and aerobic exercise training increase muscle protein synthesis and improve muscle function irrespective of age and may help counteract some of the effects of ageing. Reference

Nutrition

Nutrition is one of the more difficult aspects of muscle physiology because of the interplay between eating behavior, dietary composition, and digestion all of which change with age.

The physiology of the ageing digestive system parallels that of skeletal muscle with regard to reduced function. For a multitude of reasons (physiologic, psychologic, and social), diet also changes with age, often resulting in reductions in protein intake, Vitamin D, and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, deficiencies of which have been linked to decreased muscle function.

Future work into the ideal nutritional needs of individuals in various age groups is still needed to delay, prevent, or reverse sarcopenia. Similarly, research into combined dietary supplementation and exercise regimens for successful aging is currently ongoing. Reference

Pilates and the Mind-Muscle Connection

I am in no doubt that the mind muscle connection is very real, the evidence supports this hypothesis, so if we direct the focus to the body part in question we enhance the effectiveness of any progressive resistance training. Reference

The Pilates principles of Concentration, control, alignment and precision nurture this mind body connection which I believe makes Pilates a perfect way to introduce resistance training safely in midlife and beyond.

Author: Phillipa Butler

Chartered Physiotherapist. Passionate about movement as medicine. Using pilates and yoga to mitigate the symptoms of the menopause. Subscribe for Precizion news and offers

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Interested to learn Pilates or Yoga?

Join Precizion for regular online Pilates and Yoga classes.  All led by Phillipa Butler, a Chartered Physiotherapist, Clinical Pilates and Women’s Health Expert. One-on-one consultations also available.

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