As the number of elderly people in society increases, so too will the number of accidental falls. Hospital visits by the elderly due to injuries that have been caused by falls are often the most serious and are definitely the most common. Many factors can contribute to elderly people having such a high risk of falling. The most cited causes are related to reduced mobility, osteoporosis, poor reflexes, gait and balance abnormalities as well as reduced vision and cognitive decline. Many elderly patients take prescription drugs that can also affect their balance and vision, as can low blood pressure, especially orthostatic hypotension. It is well known that exercise and keeping active in daily life can lower the risk of falling. A new study has shown that there are long term benefits to be had with pilates exercise. Volunteers in the study were tested at the start for balance and leg strength, postural sway and function. They then participated in pilates classes for five weeks and were tested again at the end of the five weeks and then after a year. Results showed that five weeks of pilates was sufficient to show a substantial improvement in the test parameters and all volunteers showed improvement. Also, after one year, the volunteers that had carried on with pilates classes had much better dynamic balance and strength that those that had not continued with the classes. Given that one in three elderly people suffer at least one major fall per year, Pilates shows enormous potential as a fall prevention therapy.
Bird et al. Positive long-term effects of pilates exercise on the age-related decline in balance and strength in older, community dwelling men and women. J Aging Phys Act. Jul 2014.