“I’m feeling unsteady. In a way, I haven’t felt before.”
These were the words that led us to ProHealth Studios in February. My husband was wise enough and kind enough to let me know he was nervous about falling.
Cal’s not alone. A fear of falling is common among older adults and with good reason. More than one in four people over the age of 65 fall every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Will you go to Pilates with me?”
I asked this question nearly instantly. Why? Because a few years ago, I was in a regular habit of Pilates with a friend. We showed up twice a week at ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio in Peachtree City for duet sessions with one of Dr. Karyn Staples’ Polestar(r) certified Pilates instructors. I knew from experience that Pilates is a low-impact exercise that packs a punch. The benefits sneak up on you. Improved balance is one of the first rewards.
Going back to Pilates had been on my mind for a while. An ongoing internal dialogue with myself was already underway. Again: why?
Because I need to counteract the effect of hundreds and hundreds of hours sitting in front of a computer. Because unlike some other habits I have tried to establish – like showing up regularly at the gym – going to Pilates was easy. I looked forward to it. Not only did I get to spend a fun hour with one of my BFFs, but I always felt so good afterward.
Also, I have fallen a few times in the past few years: twice on the cart path; twice coming down two different sets of stairs; once at the airport (watch out for your own luggage); and, most notably, on a Thanksgiving eve walk with a friend. That last one resulted in a broken shoulder.
Who am I kidding? I’m afraid of falling, too. Rightfully so. The CDC also says that once a person falls, the chances of falling again are double. By my calculations – six falls for me – I am 64 times more likely to fall now.
When, without hesitation, I heard that “yes,” I reached out to Karyn about coming back to Pilates, this time with my husband. She was enthusiastic about the idea. We set up a schedule to begin the next week.
I can’t say Cal was looking forward to it. His heart was in the idea, but he wasn’t sure his body would cooperate. Thankfully, Karyn is brilliant. She knows exactly how to ease your anxiety, avoid pain, and make it fun. On the way out of the parking lot after that first session, I asked him how he felt.
“Energized,” he said.
A month later, following session number nine, Karyn asked us if we were feeling any difference in our bodies.
“The most dramatic relief I’ve had is in my neck and shoulder area,” Cal said. He spends a lot of time in front of a computer too. When you’re focused on words, it’s hard to remember to sit up straight. It may not be the cause of a nagging crick in his neck, but it’s certainly no help.
“I don’t have the pain I did before, and it’s much more mobile,” he said.
Karyn noted how much his range of motion had improved since that first session.
For me, the biggest change was being more aware of when my body’s not lined up right. Karyn’s cues stick with me outside of the studio.
Am I sitting or standing up straight? Is my pelvis tucked in? I was constantly asking myself these questions.
“The word ‘cumulative’ comes to mind,” Cal said. “It is a cumulative process. You feel better and you get better.”
Karyn pointed out that after 10 sessions, people feel better. The next phase is to proactively apply what the body has learned to daily tasks.
In April, the day before we were heading off for a day trip, I mentioned that we’ve had falls when we’re traveling.
“How can we keep prevent that?”
Karyn stood us side by side and walked us across the studio several times, gently nudging us forward with a finger in just the right place in our backs. I can’t tell you exactly what that was all about, but I can report that we spent a beautiful spring day strolling through Cal’s hometown. Every step, we remained vertical.
We passed a big test in May. I was out of town for Mother’s Day when Cal reported a near mishap. On our front porch, a loose railing nearly sent him soaring through 8-foot tall azaleas into the front yard.
“Pilates saved me from a bad outcome,” he told me on the phone.
Later that month, we attended our grandson’s wedding. A very outdoor event, many of the festivities were at Cloudland Canyon. Once again, we remained upright.
Karyn continues to help us move in ways that support our daily activities. Most recently, we strategized over shoe tying. It ain’t as easy as it used to be.
I’m not sure what I’m more grateful for: that my husband let me know how he was feeling; that, without hesitation, he said “yes” when I proposed a solution; that Dr. Karyn Staples was sitting on ready when we asked for help; or that our Pilates sessions are now two of the most pleasant hours of the week.
The CDC also says that once a person falls, even when they’re not hurt, they become afraid of it happening again. The fear often leads to curtailing of activities, which fuels the risk of falling. When we’re less active, we become weaker, stoking the potential for a cascade of no-fun consequences.
A gentle exercise program is the keystone of the CDC’s Community-based Fall Prevention Program. Likewise, remaining physically active is the number one tip for fall prevention from both the National Institute on Aging and the Mayo Clinic. Improving balance, strength, and gait are the goal.
Pilates at ProHealth Studios with Dr. Karyn Staples is about all those things but you don’t really notice. Mostly, it’s just fun.
And that’s the best “no-fun” prevention program I can think of.
The Pilates Method is not just exercise. It is a series of controlled movements designed to develop strength, increase flexibility, and lengthen muscles while achieving total body awareness. At ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio, it is a customized workout, utilizing Pilates equipment and mat work, which provides you with the stretching and breathing benefits of yoga and the strengthening benefits of weight training.
About ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio
ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio was founded in 2005 by Dr. Karyn Staples, PT, PhD, NCPT. She leads a staff of over a dozen physical therapists, Pilates instructors, and office support staff in providing effective research-based therapies and exercise.
ProHealth is located at 1777 Georgian Park in Peachtree City. For an appointment for physical therapy, call 770-487-1931.
If Pilates exercise is something you would like to explore, there are private lessons and classes available throughout the week at ProHealth. Call or visit https://prohealthga.com/schedule.