The Single Most Important Pilates Exercise for You and Your Children

1
Stand to Sit

Photo courtesy of Pilates Method Alliance, (c) 2014. www.pilatesmethodalliance.org/pilates4youthPilates for Children and Adolescents, Handspring Publishing (2014).

An interesting study showed a single full body movement exercise to be a predictor of wellness and longevity in older adults - the ability to rise from sitting on the floor.  Researchers developed a screening exam that measures your ability to successfully execute the smooth transition from floor sitting to an upright stance with minimal support. The more aid or support you use, the less well you score.  The less support you need to execute the move the more positively your score will correlate with a longer life span. 

What a surprise to see that the transition they examined is one that is repeated over and over in the traditional Pilates method. While there are more specific details in the Pilates version, the successful execution is the exact result that scientists were studying and which you are looking to achieve. Is it challenging? Yes indeed. But with practice you should make dramatic improvements in a very short time. What's even better is you can practice this one move with the young people in your life and have a little fun at the same time. 

The book Pilates for Children and Adolescents published by the Pilates Method Alliance has instructions for the move. The images shown here depict a young girl demonstrating the exercise as it should be done. The book is full of other exercises that students of any age should practice and enjoy and can be purchased on their site.

Step 1

For the healthy body with no restrictions, assume the position shown, standing upright with the legs and arms crossed.  Hold the arms at shoulder height "genie style". To bring some of the actual Pilates method into the move, draw your abdominals inward and upward and keep your neck long and shoulders down. Shift your weight slightly forward to prepare to lower your body towards the floor.    

2
Sit to Stand

Photo courtesy of Pilates Method Alliance, (c) 2014. www.pilatesmethodalliance.org/pilates4youthPilates for Children and Adolescents, Handspring Publishing (2014).

Step 2

Bend your hips, knees and ankles, slowly lowering your seat towards the floor. The heels will naturally lift off the floor. With maximum control gently lower to a full seated position. 

What now? Well now you have to stand back up. Exactly the way you lowered down. Your challenge is to avoid using your hands, knees, or any other type of support. Begin by shifting your weight as forward as you need to rocking onto your feet and pushing into the floor to help extend your legs and entire body up into a standing position.

Need a little help? Pair up!

Don't throw in the towel if you have trouble. There are some great ways to build your skill in this exercise. Stand facing your partner with your arms outstretched and hold hands.  Start lowering down to a seated position and then come right back up relying upon your partner to help you as much as needed.  Once you are upright, switch roles. Extend your hands for them to hold and have them lower down and you become the "helper upper".

If you are interested in the original research paper, you'll find the details of the results in the full study. Over 2000 subjects between the ages of 50 and 80 years old were tested and scored from 1 - 10. Researchers followed up with the subjects up to 6.2 years later to assess longevity. The higher death rates were found among those with the lowest test scores. Their results suggest that strength and flexibility can predict the risks of all-cause mortality. You can also watch some of the examiners and their subjects of all ages and abilities on a YouTube.com video they made to illustrate the protocol. 

A blend of strength and flexibility as a predictor for better survival? Sounds like Pilates is just the thing. All you have to do is start with this one single move. 

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