So you may well know how good Pilates can be for you as an adult but had you ever considered that it might have benefits for the younger generation also. A 10 year study was started in America in 2004 to answer this very question. The Pilates for Youth Initiative started in a number of schools and led to the development of a method to teach Pilates to children safely taking into consideration the different stages of physical and cognitive development that they undergo.
Pilates focusses on working the core stabilizing muscles to improve posture and strengthen the deep abdominals relieving pressure off overworked back muscles. This can particularly benefit children who in modern times are carrying increasingly heavy bags at school and spend many hours hunched over screens. The hope is that by strengthening these essential muscles from a young age and by developing good postural habits, that many chronic back problems seen in adults in later life can be reduced.
Whist it was noted during the study that there were many physical changes within the students, there were far more whole-body health benefits including decreased stress and improved ability to manage challenges.
Various comments were collected from students who had undertaken the trial and all were very positive. One student commented that, “it's helping me with my studies because I am more relaxed, because I know that I am breathing and I am not going to tighten up.” Another commented in a similar vein, “It's helped me concentrate and relax more and I'm not like, 'oh my gosh I have another test' and I can't really breathe. Pilates helps me relax.”
There are many factors challenging young people's health today including physical inactivity led by the increased use of technology in the form of tablets, television, computers, games systems and smart phones. There has also been a marked decrease in the number of hours in the school curriculum for PE. They are also struggling with unhealthy diets with large portions and the prevalent availability of unhealthy snacks both inside and outside of school. There is a very definite risk that this will be the first generation with a shorter lifespan than their parents.
On the flip side of this there are also more sports injuries than ever before in young people as intensive training does not take into account the challenges to the body associated with growth spurts and the susceptibility of the body to damage. During growth spurts, bones grow faster than the muscles and tissues can adapt and as a result tendons can become inflamed causing pain and damage. During this time the bones are also more porous and flexible than those in an adult making them more vulnerable to breakage. Growth plates are particularly sensitive and if these are damaged then there can be long term problems with the bone development.
Pilates for young people has been established with this knowledge and takes these factors into account helping the body develop and strengthening it to be the best that it can be.
Pilates exercises in young people have been shown to:
- override the body's physiological response to stress
- initiate the relaxation response and invigorate the nervous system by means of concentrated and focussed breathing
- integrate all the body's systems to bring students into and energised, alert state
- organise whole brain function for optimal learning
- raise levels of all “chemical messengers” known to balance behaviour and inhibit hunger
- unify the cognitive and motor regions of the brain critical to strengthening attention and co-ordination, by the introduction of cross-lateral movements
- create a fun, harmonious and safe way of learning and developing group dynamics and social skills
- reduce stress, increase mind and body fitness, and develop key elements of lifetime health such as self awareness and self care and management
Ultimately Pilates in young people fosters excellence in mental fitness, emotional intelligence, physical wellbeing and social competence. Now who wouldn't want that for their child?!
This September we are starting Pilates classes specifically for children. The classes are tailored to the age of the children and are fun classes.
If you are interested in signing your child up for a Pilates lesson or would like more information, please feel free to contact the studio on 01446 775772 or by email at email@example.com. Classes are starting in September:
Thursdays 4:00pm for ages 7-11
Thursdays 17:00 for ages 11-16
Classes are £45 for a block of 6
“In childhood, habits are easily formed – good and bad. Why not then concentrate on the formation of only good habits and avoid the necessity later on in life of attempting to correct bad habits and substituting them for good habits.” (Joseph Pilates, 1934)