Despite popular perception, pilates is not just for adult women. Practicing pilates is not only beneficial for both men and women, but also for younger, adolescent boys and girls.
As I tell many of my clients who are also parents, pilates is an incredible tool to help children and young adults grow. By the time a child is going through puberty, they begin to develop a strong core. Pilates helps a child’s body become more strong and flexible, and is a great investment in their health.
Children also nowadays unfortunately have a number of bad habits that are derived from their environment: spending long hours in front of the computer or tv, hunched over a small electronics screen, or carrying a backpack that is much too heavy. Pilates is also extremely helpful in preventing chronic back issues later in life that can result from these harmful habits.
Pilates for children is, of course, practiced very different than for adults. This is one obstacle — fewer pilates instructors are also certified to work with children. Working with an adolescent using exercises designed for adults will have be quite harmful.
For example, the best way to open up the back with an adult is called the short spine, which involves rolling the neck up and down. However, if you were to do this with a 12 year old, it would put an enormous amount of stress on the child’s spine and can have negative effects on growth.
Here is a snapshot of how pilates can be tailored for different bodies along the development process.
For younger adolescents aged 10–13, it is important to practice exercises with light tension, low intensity, and low levels of repetition. As this age group is just hitting puberty, it is important that there is no stress in the joints or muscles.For young adults aged 14 and above, the workouts begin to resemble an adult workout. Tension can be increased, and there is more focus on the body, form and technique. At this age, it is important to learn the body-mind connection that is integral to pilates. Teenage athletes benefit immensely from pilates — from prevention of injuries to the enhancement of muscles used in their sports. Working with my young client who is a volleyball player, I regularly focus on stretching her quad muscles as they are heavily used in her sport.
Though pilates is important for children to develop focus and discipline, it is most important to keep it fun! During my time volunteering with the Chaka Khan Foundation, I found that children enjoyed engaging with different equipment and trying new stretches with their body. This positive energy is the most essential to a successful pilates workout!
My hope is to see pilates become increasingly popular for children and young athletes, as I truly believe it is one of the best physical activities a child can do — learning about their bodies while having fun!
Do you have more questions about youth pilates? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at email@example.com , and I’ll be happy to answer!