+AA
Fr
Back
Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

Pilates may improve muscle strength and balance in older adults

Bullo V, Bergamin M, Gobbo S, et al. The effects of pilates exercise training on physical fitness and wellbeing in the elderly: A systematic review for future exercise prescription Preventative Medicine. 2015;75:1-11.

Review question

What are the effects of Pilates on physical fitness, strength, balance, number of falls, mood, quality of life and the ability to independently complete daily tasks in older adults?

Background

As people age, they tend to lose the amount of muscle they have. This can cause changes in one’s ability to function physically and make daily activities more difficult to complete. Because of this, strategies that help to improve or stop the decline in function are important for quality of life in older adults. Pilates is a type of physical activity made up of movements from different exercises such as dance, martial arts, gymnastics, and yoga. It emphasizes flowing movement, breathing, control, concentration, focusing on the centre of the body, and performing the movements properly. A previous systematic review showed that Pilates has a positive effect on muscle endurance, flexibility, and dynamic balance in young and middle-aged people, but how helpful it may be for older adults is not known.  

How the review was done

This is a systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 studies, most of which were randomized controlled trials. The studies were published between 2009 and 2013 and included a total of 349 participants. Key features of the studies:

  • The participants generally ranged in age from 60-80 years old. Some participants were healthy and others had a stable long-term illness.
  • The types of Pilates exercises varied, and included standing, sitting, and laying down exercises, floor mat exercises, and exercises using equipment such as weights, wobble boards, balls, elastic bands, reformers, and chairs. Generally, Pilates sessions lasted between 60-75 minutes and were done 1-3 times a week. Participants took part in these programs for 5 weeks to 12 months.
  • Researchers measured: muscle strength, walking performance (e.g., steps walked within a 5 m distance and walking speed), static balance, dynamic balance, flexibility, independence in completing daily activities (e.g., getting dressed/undressed), mood, and quality of life.
  • Some studies compared the results to people in control groups, older adults who did not do any Pilates exercise.  

What the researchers found

Pilates may have a large effect on improving muscle strength, a moderate effect on improving dynamic balance, and a small effect on improving static balance in older adults. Although improved balance may help to prevent falls, the data from this review does not yet support Pilates’ role in preventing falls. The review did not find enough data in the included studies to understand the impact of Pilates on walking and walking speed, flexibility, the ability to accomplish daily living activities, mood (by reducing depressive symptoms), or quality of life. It is important to highlight that 6 of the included studies where considered low quality, while 4 were considered high quality. Due to the small number of studies and participants included in the review, more research is needed to further support these findings.  

Conclusion

Pilates may help older adults to improve their muscle strength and balance. Although these findings are encouraging, more research is needed on this topic, especially to understand whether these improvements in strength and balance help to prevent falls and maintain levels of physical function.

 

 




Glossary

Control group
A group that receives either no treatment or a standard treatment.
Dynamic balance
Staying balanced while moving around or changing positions.
Meta-analysis
Advanced statistical methods contrasting and combining results from different studies.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Static balance
Staying balanced when in an upright position but without moving feet.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Evidence Summaries

Related Web Resources

  • Alzheimer's Disease: Do Ginkgo products help?

    Informed Health Online
    Gingko supplements (240 mg per day) may help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and enable you to perform daily tasks better. Be aware that gingko could interact with other medications, so talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
  • Some herbal drugs may ease back pain in short term

    Institute for Work & Health
    Some alternative herbal medicines may help to relieve back pain. Devil's Claw, Willow Bark and cayenne may help reduce pain in the short term. However, there is no evidence that these substances are safe or useful in the long-term.
  • Does vitamin C keep you healthy?

    Informed Health Online
    Research shows that vitamin C supplements do not prevent colds but can shorten the time you have cold symptoms and how sick you feel if taken before you have cold symptoms.
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Register for free access to all Professional content

Register
Want the latest in aging research? Sign up for our email alerts.
Subscribe

Support for the Portal is largely provided by the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative. AGE-WELL is a contributing partner. Help us to continue to provide direct and easy access to evidence-based information on health and social conditions to help you stay healthy, active and engaged as you grow older. Donate Today.

© 2012 - 2020 McMaster University | 1280 Main Street West | Hamilton, Ontario L8S4L8 | +1 905-525-9140 | Terms Of Use