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Bullo V, Bergamin M, Gobbo S, et al. The effects of pilates exercise training on physical fitness and wellbeing in the elderly: A systematic review for future exercise prescription Preventative Medicine. 2015;75:1-11.
What are the effects of Pilates on physical fitness, strength, balance, number of falls, mood, quality of life and the ability to independently complete daily tasks in older adults?
As people age, they tend to lose the amount of muscle they have. This can cause changes in one’s ability to function physically and make daily activities more difficult to complete. Because of this, strategies that help to improve or stop the decline in function are important for quality of life in older adults. Pilates is a type of physical activity made up of movements from different exercises such as dance, martial arts, gymnastics, and yoga. It emphasizes flowing movement, breathing, control, concentration, focusing on the centre of the body, and performing the movements properly. A previous systematic review showed that Pilates has a positive effect on muscle endurance, flexibility, and dynamic balance in young and middle-aged people, but how helpful it may be for older adults is not known.
This is a systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 studies, most of which were randomized controlled trials. The studies were published between 2009 and 2013 and included a total of 349 participants. Key features of the studies:
Pilates may have a large effect on improving muscle strength, a moderate effect on improving dynamic balance, and a small effect on improving static balance in older adults. Although improved balance may help to prevent falls, the data from this review does not yet support Pilates’ role in preventing falls. The review did not find enough data in the included studies to understand the impact of Pilates on walking and walking speed, flexibility, the ability to accomplish daily living activities, mood (by reducing depressive symptoms), or quality of life. It is important to highlight that 6 of the included studies where considered low quality, while 4 were considered high quality. Due to the small number of studies and participants included in the review, more research is needed to further support these findings.
Pilates may help older adults to improve their muscle strength and balance. Although these findings are encouraging, more research is needed on this topic, especially to understand whether these improvements in strength and balance help to prevent falls and maintain levels of physical function.