Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of my Pilates Home Practice Project.

So far in our Project we've met Bill. At 82 he embarks on his Pilates path. Find out more about his workout in part 1.

Read about Sit-to-Stand in the 2nd installment of this series,

Nearly a year into her regular Pilates lessons, Fran, 60, plans any travel to and from work to include a stop at LauraBPilates Studio at least twice a week.

What does she dig most about her new workout regimen and dedicated ‘me' time?

Find out the answer and learn about Functional Reach in part 3!

3 critical skills for the 75+crowd

My esteemed colleague, Nicole Marcione, holds a BS and MS in Gerontology. She's currently in the midst of her PhD in Biokinesiology at USC and has graciously shared her expertise on the older adult population.

With older adults, I constantly address 3 skills: Sit-to-Stand, Functional Reach and Balance (especially while maneuvering through their surrounding environment). 

In today’s post we'll look at Balance and successfully maneuvering around obstacles.

OMG, I think we should all work on this one…


Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Whoa. A big topic.

First some sobering statistics:

1 in 3 adults 65 and older will fall at least once annually.

1 in 2 adults over 85 will fall at least once annually.

Nicole stresses that we must work with our clients “on their balance, not only when they are standing still, but more importantly while they are moving: climbing up and down stairs, stepping up onto a curb or stepping over something in their path.”

Remember Bill?

He felt the benefits of his Pilates exercises and was no longer unsteady when rising from a seated position.

Evidently he felt SO good he stopped doing his exercises.

Oh no…

The balance problems came back.

I do my best not to be the Pilates Police…however he did mention the guilt I have instilled in him when he passes by the room where the mat lives and maintains he “needs to get back to it.”

Bill and his wife both had a fall on the same day.

Walking between 2 parked cars, Bill hit his shin on a tow hitch. He fell, hit his face and scraped himself up pretty well.

His wife, a few years his junior, fell first thing in the morning as she arose, maneuvering around the side of the bed and other furniture.

On a positive note Bill and his wife are making huge dietary changes. They have both lost a significant amount of weight. Bill tells me I will not recognize him when I see him he is so skinny.

To which I replied:

“Wow, think how easy those Pilates exercises will be now!”

I'm confident he'll return to his Pilates exercises, even if it's not until I'm there to crack the whip in person.

Now I have a couple new exercises for him.

Thanks Nicole. 

2×4 Exercises or Calf Raises

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

From Nicole:

“The plantar flexor muscles are the most important for propulsion in walking, so they need to stay strong.”

This one's no joke. Make sure to find your entire body to work this exercise, not just the ankles.

Remember we're defying gravity. And cultivating control.

And keeping our feet supple and strong.

  • Stay tall as you slowly lower the heels. Don't get any shorter!
  • Push down into the balls of the feet to lift the heels up.
  • Repeat 10x.

Standing Pumping on the Wunda Chair

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition

Why is it always the simple, straightforward exercises that are the most challenging?

Deliberately control the pedal in both directions: you must push it down and you must pick it up.

The pedal should not push you around.

Keep the spring quiet.

  • Use the tall gondola pole for added support if necessary.
  • The spring tension can be graduated for this exercise and increased as the student builds strength and confidence. 
  • I like to use 2 springs on the bottom to find maximum connection. Once that's working well you might work your way toward 1 top + 1 bottom over time.
  • Work to stand evenly on both feet.
  • Nicole points out the importance of “emphasizing the UP part.”

Foot Slides

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition IMG_7385

Using the kitchen counter or the back of a chair for balance, seniors can practice this versatile exercise just about anywhere.

They'll strengthen their stomach and seat and keep their hips flexible as they find their balance on one leg.

  • Stand facing the Ladder Barrel.
  • Gently hold on the Ladder for support.
  • Slide the foot to the side 10x on each side.
  • Slide the foot to the back 10x on each side.

Step Ups

Pilates Home Practice Project: The Balance Edition IMG_7367 IMG_7368

Remember the part about stepping up onto a curb? Or stepping over an obstacle in your path?

This simple exercise is fantastic to reinforce these skills in older adults.

It's a crucial skill for us all.

  • Use the Reformer box or something smaller if needed.
  • Put the box against the wall.
  • The client will face the wall with palms on the wall for support, if needed.
  • Do 20x for each side.

A Delicate Balance

Use one of these simple exercises in your next workout.

You may be surprised to find out how hard they are to do well.

I know I was.

Nicole Marcione is a classical Pilates teacher who has trained extensively with Jay Grimes. She is a Gerontologist and is currently getting her PhD at the University of Southern California’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. She works in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab and teaches Musculoskeletal and Analytical Anatomy to PT students at USC. Although Nicole is busy with school, she still teaches and is available for private lessons, Skype lessons, workshops, and consultations on optimal aging.

How do you work on balance in your own workout?

Share your hot tips in a comment below so we can all try them!

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