Preventing Osteoporosis with Pilates

Osteoporosis is a serious health concern for post-menopausal women. Because of decreases in estrogen, it’s common for women to experience lower bone mineral density (BMD), which can lead to osteoporosis or an increased risk of fractures. In fact, one third of post-menopausal women develop osteoporosis.

There are a variety of natural preventive approaches to warding off osteoporosis: Vitamin D and calcium supplementation, regular weight-bearing exercise, and strength training are some of the most commonly recommended approaches.

Now new research shows that regular Pilates exercises can also play a role in maintaining bone strength.

In a study conducted by Brazilian physical therapists, the authors set out to see how Pilates compared to whole-body vibration therapy (WBV). WBV works by having the person stand on a vibrating platform for about a half an hour a few times a week. It seems that the vibrations stimulate osteocyte growth, increasing bone density.

To test the effectiveness of both methods, the researchers took a group of 51 post-menopausal women and divided them into three groups: one-third received Pilates, one-third used WBV, and one-third served as a control group with no intervention. Both the Pilates and WBV patients received their treatment three times a week for six months.

All test subjects had a bone density analysis at six points at the start and completion of the study to see if there were any measurable changes.

The authors found that both the Pilates group and WBV group had significant improvements in two of the six bone mineral test areas: the hip and low back. The rest of the test areas were unchanged.

The authors write that, “Both were superior to no intervention on the bone regions of the lumbar spine and trochanter. Since the techniques are relatively safe and offer the same osteogenic effect, the choice of which to use can take into account the existing resources or patients’ preferences.”

This study shows that regular Pilates can play a role in staying healthy as we age. Other studies have found that Pilates improves balance and fitness in older adults. Pilates is the perfect way to stay healthy and have fun while doing it!

de Oliveira LC, de Oliveira RG, de Almeida Pires-Oliveira DA. Effects of Whole-Body Vibration Versus Pilates Exercise on Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized and Controlled Clinical Trial. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy 2018 Feb 12. doi: 10.1519/JPT.0000000000000184.