Staying Active With Pilates

Staying active can be a challenge for many of you living with arthritis. Arthritis is very individual: not everyone has the same type of arthritis, the same joints affected, the same level of disease progression, the same symptoms, or the same degree of pain or functional limitation.

Just as arthritis affects people differently, an exercise program needs to be individually tailored, with Pilates being one form of exercise that might suit some readers.

Pilates is an exercise method featuring equipment with adjustable spring resistance as load and a progression of exercises as the person becomes more flexible, stable and stronger. Additionally, there are Pilates mat exercises that require no specialised equipment and are simple to do at home.

Pilates was created by Jospeh Pilates in the 1920's which uses more than 500 exercises to blend breathing regulation and mental exercise into a program designed to deliver holistic benefits. Importantly, the method teaches participants greater awareness of the form and function of their bodies leading to boosted strength, stability and mobility in daily life.

A targeted Pilates program can provide many benefits for people living with arthritis, helping them live a full and active life. A Pilates program can be modified in response to an arthritis ‘flare’ or an increase in symptoms and can offer relief from pain and stiffness.

Pilates can also help relax the body and mind, manage stress and enhance a general sense of wellbeing and quality of life.

The significant benefits of regular Pilates practice for people with arthritis can include improvements in:

  • Range of improvement in the joints, giving better flexibility and ease of movement in everday activities
  • Joint alignment, allowing better biomechanics of joints, providing protection of damaged joints and minimising further risk of future joint damage
  • Strength and stability of muscles supporting affected joints
  • Bone strength, which is important in the prevention and management of osteoporosis
  • Balance, coordination and proprioception, providing confidence in daily activities and helping reduce the risk of a fall
  • Posture, such as better alignment of the skeleton, reduce stress on the spine breathing function

Pilates Studios offer private lessons, semi-private classes and often mat classes. A private session can be a good place to start, so that your personal ability and limitations can be determined and suitable modifications to exercises made.

Mat Pilates classes are group-based classes (usually 8-12 participants) often incorporating a Theraband or small balls to assist. The instructor will offer variations and modifications for individuals. Specialised classes for seniors may also be suitable for people with arthritis.

Many gyms also offer Pilates group classes, however, they are usually larger classes (20-30 participants) and follow a set routine. These larger gym-based classes are not suitable for those with moderate to severe arthritis symptoms. Always speak to your doctor if you have not exercised for a while or are wondering if Pilates is a suitable form of exercise for you.