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Olga Sotomayor desde la 340
Three years ago, Maria could no longer ignore a misalignment in his left hip she has had since childhood. 'I had a muscle dysfunction," she says. 'My right leg was weak, and my left leg was strong." Thanks to a rigorous fitness regimen that includes Pilates, the condition has been corrected.
For years, dancers have benefited from the Pilates program, toning their muscles, building strength and increasing flexibility. After decades, it emerged from the ballet studio and people are discovering its advantages. Connecting breathing to movement, stretching the spine and lengthening ligaments and muscles improve balance and correct posture, giving a better sense of well-being and reducing the risk of falls and injuries. "You feel more energized, but your body is more relaxed,"
The flare-up of an old back injury nearly incapacitated John two years ago, and he started doing Pilates. "I felt energy moving through my body in a way I'd never experienced before," he says. Now free of pain, he signs up for twice-weekly sessions ."I'm probably in the best physical shape I've ever been. My stamina is so much greater because my body is rested and toned."
Since the Pilates program is low impact and does not put strain on joints, it is a boom for people over 50. As developed by Joseph Pilates, a German physical therapist and athlete who immigrated to the U.S., the exercises were done on equipment he designed. Pilates Studios use these machines with spring mechanisms. The classes can be expensive; one-on-one sessions are in the 35-to-60-Euros an-hour range. A less costly technique based on Pilates' method can be done on the floor using a mat. A multitude of exercises focuses on controlling breathing, joining it to movement and developing the power center: the abdomen and lower torso.
Gentle exercises that reprogram muscles are essential as people grow older and lose elasticity. Brent Anderson, who teaches the technique in Miami, is working on his doctorate in physical therapy , writing his thesis on the effects of Pilates on the spine. His aging boomer clients who grunted their way through the no-pain-no-gain work-outs of the '8Os, are turning to the Method as welcome therapy. Anderson has observed, for example, that knee muscles out of whack because of a trauma experienced years earlier "can be retrained and the process of degeneration significantly decreased."
It is never too late to start exercising. "Not only can exercise add at least two years to your life, it will enrich the quality of those later decades by lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, hip fractures and arthritis." For older people who have done little exercise, Pilates is an excellent way to begin. It is the technique for people who are eager to slow the clock -- or even turn it back.
Gym Tonic, March 2007