Over 50? Pilates Will Be Your Best Friend

Over 50? Pilates Will Be Your Best Friend

Discover why research says women over 50 should take up Pilates…


Every decade of our life has its own challenges, but there is one undeniable rule: as we age, our bodies need more help to stay healthy and function with ease.

This is what every GP and physio will tell you – and I’m here to share with you the science and research why Pilates in particular is so suitable for anyone over 50.

While you could ignore your health in your 20s and early 30s – and get away with it – when hitting 50, you will truly get rewarded for exercising regularly.

Because 60s are the new 50s, and 50s are the new 40s!

We live longer and we all want to enjoy this time in our lives – and for this, we benefit from having a body that enables us to live the life that we want, unrestricted and without compromise.

If you want to travel, go for it!  If you’re balancing a job with looking after grandkids, let’s do it with bounds of energy and without aches and pains.

So, let’s find out the proven, physical impact of ageing and how Pilates can help to reverse this so that you can live ‘your best life’:


OSTEOPOROSIS & PILATES: Does Pilates help with osteoporosis?


From the age of 35, women start losing bone density. This accelerates when hitting menopause and it basically means our bones become weaker. A loss of bone density happens in all women – it’s part of the ageing process – however, due to hormonal changes it accelerates and can turn into osteoporosis, which means bones can become brittle and prone to fractures and breaks.


>> How clinical research has shown that Pilates can be a great solution:

Bone Mineral Density (BMD) can be measured so it was possible to create a clinical study and research whether Pilates has an impact on BMD levels in people put through a Pilates programme.

A study by Ender Angin published in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation in 2015 showed that BMD levels indeed significantly increased when doing Pilates – and as a bonus, pain levels dropped in those doing Pilates!

It has long been proven that to keep your bones strong and Bone Mineral Density high you need to do resistance training, using your own body weight (or by doing weight training with for instance hand weights) as resistance. During a Pilates workout you will be putting your bones under pressure – and this is exactly the right thing to do to promote building bone density and avoid fractures and breaks.


MENOPAUSE & PILATES: Does Pilates help with the effects of menopause?


Going through menopause drastically affects your body. As estrogen levels drop significantly in your body, it creates a massive chain reaction that comes with a huge list of side effects:

  • Hot flushes
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Loss in bone density
  • Loss of muscle strength and flexibility
  • Sexual issues

Several studies have also shown that menopause plays havoc with fitness habits; post-menopausal women tend to be more sedentary and do less fitness. Just a time when the body needs the positive effects that exercise can bring more than ever, our mind needs a bit of convincing to get off the couch…


>> How clinical research has shown that Pilates can be a great solution:

Research has shown that 8 weeks of Pilates, 3 x times a week, significantly reduces the physical and psychological menopausal symptoms (listed above) in post-menopausal women.

From helping the body to deal with temperature changes to reducing mood swings, Pilates showed to offer a great, safe and risk-free way of offsetting the havoc created by menopause.

(A quick note that the only area the study didn’t record a significant improvement was in the urogenital symptoms associated with menopause, which includes vaginal dryness)


LOSS OF BALANCE & PILATES: Does Pilates help with balance issues?


Part of ageing is that our balance begins to decline. You may think that’s not a big deal, but when your balance is off, you tend to fall over more.

And remember what I said about losing bone density and being more prone to bone fractures and osteoporosis? That’s right – a loss of balance can actually result in tripping over more and breaking bones more easily.

Another factor is that once you’ve fallen over and hurt yourself, you can become anxious about the risk of falling over and this can affect your quality of life.


>> How clinical research has shown that Pilates can be a great solution:

Research by Marie-Louise Bird and James Fell (University of Tasmania, Australia) showed that elderly participants undertaking 5 weeks of Pilates saw a significant improvement in their dynamic balance and strength, which made them less prone to falling.

The amazing thing was that even a year later those participants were still experiencing the benefits of their 5 week Pilates intervention, but those who kept up their Pilates practice reaped the biggest rewards.


BACK PAIN & PILATES: Does Pilates help with back pain?


The medical community agree on this; low back pain (LBP) is considered to be one of the major disabling health conditions among older adults.

The first attack of low back pain tends to occur between the age of 30 and 50. As we age, the risk of back pain becomes greater because of decreased muscle elasticity and tone as well as loss of bone strength (which can lead to fractures).

On top of this, the intervertebral discs start to lose fluid and flexibility, which then decreases the ability to cushion the vertebrae.

We’re also more at risk of spinal stenosis as we age, which is the compression of the spinal canal that contains the spinal cord and nerve roots. When this canal narrows, it can pinch the spinal cord or nerves, leaving you in pain.


>> How clinical research has shown that Pilates can be a great solution:

Medical evidence suggests that 90% of all back pain is caused by musculoskeletal issues, which means it’s caused by damage to ligaments, joints and muscles around the spine.

The Lancet – a well-respected medical journal – published a great in-depth report on back pain in 2018, which mentioned the following:

  • 90% of people have a back issue that can be fixed
  • Movement is a much better cure than resting
  • Painkillers are only a short-term solution and don’t sort out the underlying issue
  • There is no quick fix – specific regular exercises is the only way to restore balance in your back

What did the medical experts in the report published in The Lancet advice as the best back pain cure?

Three things: Pilates, swimming and some types of yoga.

Pilates will give you all the tools to learn how to engage and strengthen your core, which is one of the key reasons why people suffer from back pain. Pilates also helps to improve flexibility and strength in the right muscle groups, including around the gluteals, hamstrings and deep hip and spine stabilisers.

Swimming is one of the safest ways to strengthen the body and it provides a cardio workout at the same time. If you can find the time to include a swim session into your weekly routine, there is no doubt your body will benefit.

Yoga – I’m a fan of yoga, but I have to tell you I’m a bit dubious of recommending it to people suffering from severe back pain as yoga has little to no focus on core strength, but a huge emphasis on flexibility. It will work well if the only issue you have is tight muscles, but if your back pain is also caused by a lack of core strength – and in most cases it is – then I would recommend starting with Pilates first.


LOSS OF MOBILITY AND FLEXIBILITY & PILATES: Does Pilates make you more flexible?


As we age, our muscles lose flexibility and strength, which makes us move with less ease and we become more ‘rigid’.

The biggest different between a 10 year old and a 90 year old is the ability of a child to move so freely. A kid can run, play, jump and move unexpectedly and with ease compared to an elderly person.

Why is that? For all the reasons mentioned in the previous points combined with the fact we naturally lose our flexibility and strength as we get older – and as mentioned, this process speeds up once women hit menopause.


>> How clinical research has shown that Pilates can be a great solution:

Research published by National Institute for Health Research has shown that Pilates indeed improves strength, flexibility and balance in older adults.

In an article published in The Scientist, the link between muscle ageing and exercise was investigated. Although the reasons for muscle ageing are complex and often create a vicious cycle of muscle loss and inactivity, research is now suggesting that muscle loss and weakness can be kept at bay and even reversed by exercise.

The rule ‘if you don’t use, you’ll lose it’ is exactly right in this context.

Train your muscles, use them for your daily activities, and repeat. This positive cycle even has a great side effect – it also slows down the immune system’s ageing process.




Further to all the above, it’s clear there is plenty of clinical research to back up my claims; Pilates truly is the best anti-ageing workout for your body. It improves your strength, flexibility, balance and it will help to reduce the impact of the menopause. In addition, it tones up the body nicely, too – a nice side effect, right?

As a Pilates instructor, I have seen firsthand how regular Pilates can help transform people’s bodies and even transform their lives due to the impact it has on their energy levels, aches and pains, mobility and strength.


So, want to find out a bit more about Pilates and how to stay fit after hitting 50?


If you’d like to receive my 22 page ‘Fit After 50’ guide on how to stay fit and in optimal health with the power for Pilates, just email me at [email protected] and I will send it over to you.


All scientific and medical sources are included in the article – just click on the embedded links to be directed to the relevant research papers and articles.


Sarah Vrancken

Article by Sarah Vrancken

Published 05 Oct 2022