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  • Writer's pictureVicci Gillett

Why you should be doing Reformer Pilates. Especially if you’re heading for your 50’s

After the age of 30 we lose 3-8 percent of muscle mass and strength decreases 16-41% for those in the above 40s bracket with the rate of decline even higher after the age of 60.

Where has the reformer come from? Joe Pilates (founder) was interned as a German enemy during World war 1 and used his time wisely developing the Pilates method. He worked as a nurse caring for victims of war and developed a system of springs and pulleys from their beds so they could strengthen their muscles whilst bed bound. This is the origins of what we now know as the Reformer. Fast forward a number of decades and we have a sleek machine with a carriage that moves up and down using spring resistance along with straps and pulleys to add challenges for every muscle in your body.

Reformers have been an essential machine for resistance training in the pilates world for decades. Resistance machines using springs to concentrically contract muscles but more importantly work on the eccentric lengthening (lengthening a muscle under load) can not only strengthen and tone but increase joint stability and bone mass, lessen your chance of injury and work on that all important posture. By working concentric and eccentrically your muscles will develop a long and lean appearance.

Research shows that eccentric training is superior to concentric training at building muscle mass and strength. Slowing down the eccentric phase of your movement can increase your resting metabolic rate thus increasing the amount of calories you burn whilst watching TV! A study showed that those performing eccentric hamstring exercises had flexibility gains than those working statically. Eccentric training not only strengthens muscles but also connective tissues and is an essential part of any athlete/sporty persons training to avoid injury.

One 2012 study showing inactive adults with muscle mass loss, resting metabolic rate reduction and fat accumulation revealed that 10 weeks of resistance training increased lean weight by 1.4kg, increased resting metabolic rate by 7 percent and reduced fat weight by 1.8kg. Improving physical performance, movement control, walking speed, functional independence, cognitive abilities and self esteem.

So why is it important when you’re getting older? Well, as you age, muscle becomes harder to build and weaker, bones aren’t so dense, you don’t feel as flexible and resistance training becomes essential. The pilates reformer can work every part of your body, adding resistance to work global muscles (those that create movement) and taking resistance off to work local muscles (those that stabilise the bones).

Strength and endurance of muscles may look good but it's also important for your daily life as you get older by maintaining function and your ability to remain active for longer periods of time. Resistance training works by pulling on the muscles and putting stress on the bones, forcing them to renew themselves and create more bone making them denser. As your muscles get stronger your bones become denser.

A 2018 study investigated the effects of Pilates reformer exercises on adults aged 65 and over based on fall risk compared to a control group. It found that Reformer once a week for 10 weeks resulted in reduced fall risk and significant improvements in static and dynamic balance, functional mobility and lower extremity active range of movement whereas the control group did not significantly improve.

Theres even great news if you're suffering from hot flushes, a small 2019 study on resistance training for women suffering from hot flushes showed that they were almost halved by training 3 times a week for 15 weeks!

As a Certified STOTT Pilates Mat and Reformer Instructor I have the ability to offer mini group sessions with 3 Reformers in my home studio. I can offer quality training on these wonderful machines in a 3:1, duet or private class. Just click the link on how to get started.

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