UPDATE Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

UPDATE The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82Today I am thrilled to update progress on my Pilates Home Practice Series.

I'm fascinated by the Pilates Method as applied to special populations, in particular the older adult. It is my firm belief that age is not a disability and that our beloved Pilates Method has something in it for every body.

Two individuals of even the same age may be wildly different in their abilities, needs and fitness levels.

The Pilates Home Practice Series will highlight the benefits of a Pilates workout – not to perfect your Teasers or to execute Super Advanced Exercises – but simply to improve your quality of life.

Remember Bill?

My father-in-law has been working on 5 Pilates exercises for a few months now.

There's nothing Bill loves more than a plan of action.

He's decided 4pm is his ideal workout time and he does his exercises at least 3 times every week.

He confessed to me that in one workout he “overdid it” and was really sore for a few days.

My father-in-law is a shining example of a pragmatist. He rested for about a week and then resumed his exercise schedule.


Now nearly 6 months in to his Pilates routine he tells me the exercises are becoming more manageable and his balance is much improved. His wife Shirlene has started using her exercise bike while Bill does his Pilates.

I'm a big fan of teamwork. I hope they enjoy a good pre-Pilates hug too…

A good hug helps the workout immeasurably. I firmly believe it.

3 critical skills for the 75+crowd

An esteemed colleague of mine, Nicole Marcione, holds a BS and MS in Gerontology. She's currently in the midst of her PhD in Biokinesiology at USC. I am thrilled to be able to share 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 cover Sit-to-Stand. Stay tuned for posts featuring Nicole's tips on Functional Reach and Balance in the near future.

Sit – to – Stand

What's the #1 reason an individual must move to assisted living or a nursing facility?

Nicole levels with me on this one:

One of the number one reasons a person has to move into assisted living or a nursing facility is because they can no longer stand up from a toilet.

Yep, that's right the toilet.

Most of us stand up after using the toilet multiple times per day and don't give it a second thought. However, a lot of leg strength and balance are required to accomplish this movement.

Core strength, leg strength and stability in general are going to help our clients perform sit-to-stand movements.

But wait. Don't all Pilates exercises do this?

Correct! That's why Pilates is the perfect method of exercise for older adults!

Depending on the age and physical ability of your client Nicole suggests incorporating many different pieces of equipment to perform this skill.

One of Bill's ‘finishing exercises' is simply just this particular skill.

Sit-to-Stand on a regular chair

UPDATE Pilates Home Project: Bill, 82UPDATE Pilates Home Project: Bill, 82UPDATE Pilates Home Project: Bill, 82

From Nicole:

This is not a Pilates exercise, but the client can put all of their Pilates to good use.

Have them sit in a chair and without using their hands or momentum, have them stand up and sit down with control (no flopping down) 10 times.

Bill's original complaint was that upon rising he was unsteady and often dizzy. So at the end of his 5 Mat exercises he works on his Sit-to-Stand.

And although this is technically not a Pilates exercise, think about how we Pilates teachers have students get onto the Reformer or Mat ALL DAY LONG: with control, no hands and no plopping.

Sit-to-Stand is the distillation of a skill we perform in our Pilates workout all the time.

Nicole's go-to Exercises: Core and Leg Strength

Leg Series on the Cadillac

UPDATE: Pilates Home Practice, Bill, 82

The Leg Spring Series is a great all-around exercise for strengthening the lower body: trunk, bottom and legs.

It's beautifully safe in its lying down position and you have options here for different levels of fitness: lighter spring, lower placement of the hook, basic exercises and more complicated ones.

Also the height of the Cadillac is perfect for those who may not be able to get onto the floor easily. Mat exercises can certainly be done on the Cadillac for this population.

Footwork on the High Chair or Wunda Chair

UPDATE: Pilates Home Practice, Bill, 82UPDATE: Pilates Home Practice, Bill, 82

Just look at this one! The High Chair in particular helps to support the older student as they work to strengthen all the muscles of the stomach, back, buttocks and legs.

You can do all of the Footwork positions here which will work nicely to strengthen the feet too. We all need a sturdy foundation!

Seated Pumping exercises done on the Wunda Chair can also challenge your student's upright posture. Springs can be adjusted if necessary, of course.

Wall Squats

UPDATE The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

One of the first ending series we learn is done on the Wall.

The Wall provides support to achieve one of our most human movements, the squat.

Wall exercises are not easy to do well. You can squeeze so much juice out of these simple movements.

I have one older client that has nearly every joint replaced including both of her knees. She too, with the support of the Wall, can get her squat on!

Squats off the Cadillac

An assist into a deeper squat can be achieved by using the Cadillac – and control, of course.

You've got great access to your student here to spot effectively and help them work the stomach and back.

UPDATE Pilates Home Project: Bill, 82
Many thanks, Nicole.

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 best serve your older clientele? Have questions?  

Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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  1. Barbara Bitner says

    Thank you for this post (and all of your posts!). I am sending this to my Pilates teachers to have on hand for their older clients. At age 61, I began to learn Pilates and feel like a different person 4 years later.. My plan is to continue the practice for the rest of my life.

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing the post with your colleagues. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here and so glad to hear the post is helpful to you 🙂 Have a great week!

    • And a big warm hug to you for your kind words on the blog 🙂 very appreciated…

  2. BILL. BILL. BILL! This is going to be a gem of a series! I’m passing these on to my wundamom. The facts here are eye opening (Gerontology=fascinating). Looking forward to more; if you could *maybe* talk Bill and Shirlene into taking a team Pilates portrait

    • LOL – yes I need to get a photo of those two, but it is proving to be a bit tricky…but don’t you worry – I am on the case 🙂 I love Nicole’s expertise, I am learning lots of tidbits too – stay tuned for the next installment in this series on the Functional Reach. It is a goodie for us 40somethings too… xox see you Friday!

  3. Synthia Malina says

    Thank you for this interesting and very useful post. I enjoy working with older students and Nicole Marcione’s response to your query (top reasons individuals most move to assisted living), reminds me how the basic work serves so well. I enjoyed the follow-up on your father-in-law as well.

    • Hi Synthia – You bring up an excellent point – “the basic work serves so well.” This is so true. I just learned the value of the Elephant on the Reformer in my lesson today – another exercise where the lower body strength is key and we all probably learned the Elephant on our first lesson. I am looking forward to my next visit to my in-laws to check out their hard work 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts here – have a good week!

  4. Hi Andrea,

    Wonderful post!
    This is a series of really great exercises, I shared this with my mom by the way, and she loved it! aside from our usual conversation on her business we talk a lot about Pilates and being healthy. She loves being fit and most of Pilates exercises suits her interests and so do I.
    Really enjoyed this post 🙂


    • Thank you so much Justine! How nice to share Pilates with your mom, that is fantastic. My sister started taking Pilates classes about 6 months ago in her town – I am thrilled – she really likes it and feels the benefits both physical and mental. Thank you so much for reading and sharing the post – more updates on my father-in-law to come in the future – stay tuned 🙂

      • Will do Andrea 🙂
        I’ve been feeling really great myself, I can really function well in my work without feeling lousy and dead. Pilates is <3


        • Woo hoo!! You captured it perfectly – functional and not lousy and dead. Brilliant!

          • I know right 🙂 it’s perfect. Rather than feeling the exhaustion with that heart thumping, break sweating Pilates workout the next morning, It’s amazing how I feel so energized and just have a great day ahead of me 🙂
            I love reading your posts, it gives me a lot of insights and new exercises to try out for myself.
            Thanks a bunch 🙂

          • Thank you so much for your kind words on the blog, Justine. Truly appreciated 🙂 Keep up the good work!

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