Beyond just the “average” exerciser, Pilates has been shown to provide benefits for many different populations. One of those populations is children.
As current trends show, childhood obesity is nearing epidemic proportions in this country. Children are lacking physical fitness in their daily lives, in addition to many also having poor dietary habits.
The lack of physical fitness can be attributed to many causes, (lack of physical education in schools, more sedentary, technology-driven lifestyles, increase in television watching and video gameplay, lack of open spaces to be physically active) but as fitness professionals, we have the ability to help provide physical fitness and education.
As more and more attention is placed on childhood obesity and physical fitness for youth and adolescents, more opportunities will be created to work with this population.
A Pilates Mat class is a fairly inexpensive (really, the only cost is the mat) activity that could be implemented into a regular school physical education program or after-school program.
Pilates Benefits for Children and Teens
In addition to being a great physical activity, Pilates has been found to provide benefits for children.
A study studying the positive effects of Pilates on 10-12-year-old girls. Specifically, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, waist circumference, weight, and overall enjoyment were measured during this study.
Over the course of four weeks, the participants were able to participate in Pilates Mat class up to five days per week for one hour each day. At the end of the study, it was found that the girls did have a reduction in BMI percentile and waist circumference. It was also reported that the girls enjoyed their experience participating in Pilates, and as one participant was quoted, “had fun”.
It is important for children to choose and participate in activities they find enjoyable and not make the focus of the activity on weight loss or improving body aesthetics. They should focus on how their body feels and the environment in which the class is taught should be encouraging and focus on improving self-esteem and body image.
With the focus of Pilates being on core strength and having a strong mind-body component, regular participation could fulfill these characteristics and improve not just the waistlines of children but their self-esteem and body image.
Something to Keep in Mind…
As for special considerations with teaching children, it is important to keep the focus of the class fun in nature as discussed above.
Also, since children are still growing the modification to be aware of during a Pilates session is avoiding stress on the spine. This is a precaution that carries over for children during most physical activities (sports, weight training, etc) so avoid any exercises that put undue stress or pressure directly to the spine, specifically the cervical spine. Other than these few precautions, children can be both taught and instructed in the same way as are healthy adults or “average” exercisers.
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