As we move through our lives and Pilates practice, focus is most often on our muscles as the drivers of movement. But it’s time we talk bones. We have 206 of them and they’re pretty important in keeping us upright and functional.
After age 50, most people will lose 1% of bone density and 1% of leg strength each year, unless they’re specifically bearing weight. In the U.S. approximately two million men and eight million women have osteoporosis – that’s the bad news. The great news is that a regular Fletcher Pilates® practice (in conjunction with a healthy diet) is an ideal way to establish and maintain bone health.
Bones are living tissue that must be stressed (with resistance) to become and remain healthy and strong. While great for the cardiovascular system, cycling and swimming offer very little bone-building benefit. In fact, cycling and swimming have even been linked to bone density loss. Running and jumping rope do offer beneficial impact for bones but may create joint and spinal wear over time. Myriad studies have shown that weight-bearing, strength focused training is the best for our bone health.
An article from Harvard Health Publishing expounds on the benefits of strength and resistance training, noting that it has “…benefits beyond those offered by aerobic weight-bearing exercise. It targets bones of the hips, spine, and wrists, which are the sites most likely to fracture. What’s more, resistance workouts — particularly those that include moves emphasizing power and balance — enhance strength and stability.” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/strength-training-builds-more-than-muscles
Sherri Betz, PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA, PMA®-CPT, holds a doctorate in Physical Therapy and is also a Qualified Fletcher Pilates® Teacher. Having served on the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education, Sherri offers excellent insight on this topic. She explains the benefits of Pilates as a resistance program for bone health, “Pilates loads the bones in all different directions. The exercises that are most helpful, particularly for the spine, are Swan and Swimming.” She also points out that, “Fletcher Pilates® brings Pilates to standing. That type of work is extremely helpful for improving balance, preventing falls and loading the bones. Spine Corrector work helps immensely with mobility.”
Dr. Betz lauds the Fletcher Towelwork®, lateral series, Mermaid progressions, and Reformer arm strap work for building strength and stability in the shoulder girdle and throughout the Thoracic region. The Fletcher Barrework™ is a favorite of hers for hip stability and strength. For spinal strength and stability, she favors Fletcher Pilates® of Swan progressions. “I love the position of the arms in Fletcher’s swan – goal-post arms are such a great position to strengthen back extensors. This is unique to Fletcher work. What strengthens the muscles, strengthens the bones,” she offered.
What we feed our bodies is as important as what we do with them! Here are a few dietary guidelines to help nourish those bones you are working to strengthen in the studio:
- Eat your veggies – Vegetables are an excellent source of Vitamin C which stimulates the production of bone-forming cells. They also provide minerals that build bone density.
- Get plenty of protein – Bones are 50% protein. Studies have shown that low protein intake decreases calcium absorption.
- Consume calcium daily – The recommended daily allowance of calcium is 1,000 mg (1200 for women over 50.) Yogurt, almonds, and leafy greens are excellent sources.
- Bring on the Magnesium, Zinc, and Omega-3 fats – People who include foods high in these minerals and fats average higher bone density. Magnesium and Zinc can be found in shrimp, beef, pumpkin seeds, spinach and flaxseeds and Omega-3 fats in fatty fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
As Ron Fletcher often said, “Much wants more!” So, in the spirit of “much wants more,” we say YES! to more vegetables, more bone-strengthening minerals, and more Pilates at Body Works Pilates Studio! Call today to set up a private session or reserve your spot in a COREtet or one of our group classes. There’s no better time than now to get Pilates in your bones – for your bones!