Menopause: How Pilates Can Help
Women today are much more active, informed and focused on their health and fitness than they were several decades ago. Many have been exercising for years and are not about to stop now that they are reaching their menopausal years.
The onset of menopause does, however, bring several changes to women’s lives, and from what I’ve found, they appreciate all the help they can get with navigating through it. It is interesting to look at some of the symptoms of menopause and how exercise can help alleviate some of them. It is even more interesting to look at the ways in which Pilates can help many of these symptoms.
1. Focus on breathing. Start the class with a series of deep breaths to focus and calm the mind and end with more of the same to bring the body back into the center.
2. Pick up the pace of your mat classes. Keep your classes or session moving. Maintain a rhythm and flow and it will be possible to work up a sweat!
3. Use more springs on the Reformers and Cadillacs.
4. Use more standing exercises.
5. Invest in cardio machines — bikes, ellipticals, treadmills —and get your clients on them for at least 20 minutes before class.
6. Use a bell curve to plan your classes. Start off slow (with breathing and pre-Pilates exercise), increase the level to include some cardio work, sustain this level, and then begin to cool down. This aerobic fitness formula seems to work very well for the menopausal woman.
7. Incorporate the jumpboard on the Reformer. It’s lower impact for those clients who really can’t cope with higher-impact exercise.
8. Use more resistance for arm work, and preferably stand to do this. Standing and exercising is a good way to train your body to be more functional and stable in your everyday life. Arm work off the end of the Cadillac is good for this. If someone has issues standing, have them sit on a stability ball for a challenge without the strain.
9. Use stretches between the exercises for rest periods and as a way to stretch the muscles that are now working harder than before. Stretching increases flexibility, which in turn helps with achieving balance and control over the body.
10. Challenge balance. Menopause can be a time of disorientation, not just of the mind, but of the body as well. Try adding balance exercises along with the stretches as a way to help focus the mind.
11. Work on pelvis stabilization. The areas of concern for menopausal women are the hips, buttocks and thighs. While it is distressing to begin to lose the shape in this area, it is more than just an esthetic problem. There is an increased instability in this area from the loss of the muscle and this in turn is responsible for the many falls and fractures that this population begins to see. The gluteal muscles help stabilize the pelvis as do the abdominals and pelvic floor. When the pelvis is stable the rest of the body follows suit. Since stabilization of the pelvis is a prime principle of Pilates, this form of exercise becomes important for menopausal women.