For today’s kids, eating fast food, watching TV and playing video games has become the norm. And while the lack of a nutritious diet and exercise can certainly impact their physical health negatively, we must not forget the impact that an unhealthy lifestyle can have on them mentally as well…particularly during those impressionable adolescent years.
And this is where Pilates comes in. The history of Pilates has an interesting lineage; one that enthusiasts are often unaware includes a focus on the wellness of children. While many who practice the exercise are familiar with founder Joseph Pilates’ famous quotes, such as “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness,” one less familiar saying in which he firmly believed was “First educate the child.”
As we know, both good and bad habits begin to form in early childhood. Mr. Pilates believed that if we could introduce his form of exercise into a child’s routine, it would help them create positive physical habits early on in life. It was his dream to have children learn his exercise so they could grow up knowing how to properly take care of their bodies. Pilates can help establish a correct foundation of movement that children will use for their entire lives. It will also create balanced musculature that can reduce pain and minimize the potential risk for injury now and as they continue to grow.
Kids and teens between the ages of 11 and 14 are at the most vulnerable stage for injury and injury prevention. As children grow, their bodies are in a constant state of change and development. Their bodies are changing as they enter puberty and most see incredible growth spurts during this time period as well. In addition to the physical changes taking place during this time, there are also a host of emotional changes going on during these middle school years. Societal pressures of fitting in and performing well in school add to the vulnerability of this age group.
And this is why I feel that these impactful years serve as a magic window to educate pre-teens and teens about Pilates, a form of exercise that will help them prepare their bodies and minds as they grow into adulthood.
It’s true that when you take care of your body with proper nutrition and fitness, you look and feel better overall. This is what Pilates can do for children and teens, no matter what their fitness level or athletic ability. Pilates helps children gain awareness of their body and how it works…the way they walk, bend, lift, etc. Pilates improves the way the body functions, looks and feels – and knowing the ins and outs of your body can lead to greater self-esteem.
I’ve seen the results firsthand. I’ve had the pleasure of working with several middle and high school groups in an effort to carry on Joseph Pilates’ tradition and belief in the importance of “educating the child.” It is always a privilege to bring my passion of teaching wellness to these children, most of whom have never even heard of Pilates before. Here’s what some of the kids have to say after learning about Pilates:
–“I did Pilates last night when I couldn’t fall asleep”
–“Pilates helps me relax and focus before a test”
–“Pilates helps me play sports better
A consistent fitness program makes your body strong and flexible, helps you think more clearly and makes you feel more confident – and that goes for both kids and adults. Pilates helps develop a general understanding on the importance of connecting the mind and body with fitness, and such benefits are clearly in the interest of building a solid foundation for an active, healthy lifestyle. And Pilates isn’t just about going through the motions; it’s about the experience one gets out of it and the familiarity you gain with understanding your own body.
Through Pilates, children can learn to love their bodies no matter what. It is an exercise that helps them become healthier and stronger individuals – physically AND mentally. And what’s more important than that?