In todays modern society of iPads and video games, the health of our youth is more important than ever.
Not only are we battling rising physical inactivity levels and childhood obesity, but modern technology is also having a disastrous effect on our children’s postures. Are you aware of your child’s neck, shoulder & upper back position when they are looking at their iPhone/iPad or when on the computer playing games or while studying? How many hours a day do they spend in these fixed postural positions, placing unwanted stress and tension on various structures of the body?
The Pilates Method can alleviate this unwanted stress and tension, preventing poor postures becoming permanent. Joseph Pilates, creator of the Pilates method, had great insight into this many years ago.
“In childhood, habits are easily formed – good and bad. Why not then concentrate on the formation of only good habits and thus avoid the necessity later on in life of attempting to correct bad habits and substituting them for good habits.” Joseph H. Pilates, 1934.
In addition to its postural focus, the Pilates Method has the ability to improve our physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing. This makes it the ideal form of physical activity for all age groups, but in particular our teens.
The physical benefits include; strength, flexibility, balance, stability, coordination, posture, bone & joint health and breath capacity. These are all very important aspects of health, but for our teenage population, the mental, social and emotional benefits, can often outweigh the physical.
It has been proven that physical activity during childhood and adolescence can exert both direct and indirect positive effects on adult health (Dumith, 2012). It is therefore vital we provide opportunities for positive movement experience to our youth, so they can carry this onto adulthood. Unfortunately current research suggests girls tend to decrease or stop their physical activity, during these formative years, between the ages of 11-14 (Liu, 2012). The Pilates Method can provide the ideal non-competitive environment, focusing on functional movement skills, which challenge and stimulate, while integrating the mind and body. The Pilates Method taught in a fun and playful manner, focuses on self-exploration of the body, providing the intrinsic reward of how good a positive movement experience feels. This positive experience, enhanced by the release of endorphins, becomes addictive and sets up the relationship one has with physical activity for life. Positive experiences flow onto more positive experiences and physical activity becomes a habit for life and a source of enjoyment.
At the start of their teenage years, both boys and girls are within their peak for neurological development. During this time, learning effective and functional movement can foster an improved perception of physical abilities (Marcus, 2003). Young people who participate in a variety of physical activities develop better cognitive and motor skills, increasing their self-confidence and self-efficacy, while decreasing stress and anxiety.
The Pilates Method also has the ability to assist academic performance through the development of increased concentration and focus. Being able to centre the breath, hold body positions and execute the great variety of exercises, requires complete conscious control of the entire body. This form of mind-body fitness provides the perfect physical and mental platform necessary for children to excel in academic performance, as well as other sporting pursuits. The physical focus on oneself also provides stress relief from other aspects of life, which is vital in the senior years of secondary school.
For those children fortunate enough to already be involved in sporting pursuits, the Pilates Method can be used to enhance their sporting skills in a variety of ways. Depending on the individual requirements, the training techniques of specificity and cross training can be implemented. This enables a focus on the development of specific skills required for the sport, as well as restoration of body balance, due to the one sided dominance many sports demand. The higher the level of competition and time spent training and competing, the more cross training required to prevent overuse injuries and postural deviations.
Joseph Pilates created his method to develop a uniform body, correct wrong postures, restore physical vitality, invigorate the mind and elevate the spirit (Pilates & Miller 1998). It was also his vision to implement his method into the schooling system. Had this been done, it would have had a huge impact on the health of today’s society. We unfortunately can’t change the past, but we can change the future. You can play a pivotal role in the health of your children, now and into their future, by getting them involved in the Pilates Method and creating a healthy relationship with their own body, movement and physical activity.
Author – Kath Banks AEP ESSAM
Masters of Clinical Exercise Science & Rehabilitation, Advanced Diploma of the Pilates Method, Principle Instructor & Trainer