There are now 77 million baby boomers in America. Born between the years 1946 and 1964, boomers represent nearly 27 percent of the entire population.
This demographic has always been physically active. The national fitness craze of the late 1970s began with the boomers starting aerobics, spin, and other group exercise classes. Today, those who pioneered that trend are heading into their golden years and looking for ways to stay fit.
But many can no longer take the high-impact activities they participated in three decades ago. For this population segment, Pilates is the perfect exercise system because it’s gentle on the joints, it’s slow and it’s very focused on biomechanical alignment and balance.
In particular, Pilates works the core (the deep abdominal muscles and the muscles closest to the spine, with integration of the trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle) using a person’s weight as resistance. The movements are designed both to stretch and strengthen the muscles, resulting in a more stable midsection and improving flexibility, agility and economy of motion. It can even help alleviate back pain. Sometimes done with equipment, including an apparatus called a Reformer, Pilates can also be practiced on the floor using a mat.
Many clubs have made their Pilates program a successful profit center by offering members free mat classes and then transitioning those interested into fee-based Reformer classes. Boomers are perfect candidates for the latter. With the common public perception that healthcare is declining, they are taking their fitness into their own hands. They are also the strongest economic population segment in the country with a combined spending power of $1.1 trillion and the lowest poverty rate of any U.S. demographic.
The benefits of Pilates for Boomers extend beyond just fitness benefits. As people grow older, they can lose some of their balance and coordination. Because Pilates increases strength and flexibility in both the core and the legs, this positively affects balance. This, along with basic fitness benefits, can help them reduce the risk of falls that can occur in everyday life. In addition, Pilates is also a good way for this segment to rehab from surgical procedures like a hip replacement of knee surgery.
Ken Endelman is founder and CEO of Balanced Body, the world’s largest Pilates company.