Practicing equipment-based Pilates twice weekly helps older women improve static balance and functional independence, according to a small study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2010; 14, 195–202). Research has shown that moderate physical activity can slow functional loss associated with aging and improve quality of life among older adults. Scientists wanted to determine whether Pilates exercise would provide sufficient physical activity to achieve those benefits.

University researchers from Brazil and Paraguay conducted a small study with 52 healthy female subjects, aged 60–78, who had been inactive for 6 months prior to the study and had no Pilates training. The purpose was to evaluate the effects of Pilates practice on personal autonomy, static balance and quality of life for healthy women aged 60 and above.

Subjects were randomly divided into two groups: a Pilates practice group and a control group that did not participate in any organized exercise. Pilates group members exercised twice weekly, in 1-hour sessions, for 8 weeks. All subjects evaluated their personal autonomy, static balance and quality of life at baseline and at the end of the study.

Data analysis showed statistically significant improvement in the Pilates group compared with the control group for both balance and personal autonomy. For quality of life, however, there was no meaningful change. Study author Brena Guedes de Siqueira Rodrigues, MSc, from the Universidade Castelo Branco in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said, “This study offers scientific evidence of the benefits of Pilates practice by elderly people to maintain and gain physical independence and to improve their health.” The authors saw the need for longer studies to determine more precisely the impact of Pilates practice on quality of life.