Lately, I have heard about Pilates quite a bit and have noticed that it is even drawing attention on the National Institute of Health’s PubMed with several dozen references within the past couple of years.
It has gone from being an unusual offering at strip malls to being featured in leading medical journals. This is quite a leap in a very short period of time. That march forward is being led by some of the leaders in our own profession. One of those at the forefront is Sheryl Strich, DPM, who is the President of the American Association for Women Podiatrists.
She moved from a southern California podiatric practice to a path toward certification in Pilates. Dr. Strich plans to concentrate on the elderly population. In addition, she plans to further specialize by combining Pilates and podiatric techniques.
“I am very concerned about how people lose their fluid gait as they age,” says Dr. Strich. “I feel it is because they have been walking incorrectly over the years. However, this can be improved through Pilates and orthotics. My plan is to combine the teachings of Pilates with podiatric biomechanical examinations and dispensing of orthotics.
“By combining gait and postural analysis with Pilates exercises (to help) prevent injury and encourage a healthy lifestyle, I feel the aging generation will definitely benefit.”
Dr. Strich says Pilates can be practiced by a variety of people ranging from young athletes to the elderly. She emphasizes that the practice of postural awareness, centering, concentration, control, precision and breathing inherent to Pilates can enhance movement and flexibility.
“With increased flexibility and strength, the result is a better quality of life,” explains Dr. Strich.
We are all going into old age, raging against the system, not wanting the predictable arthritic outcomes that our parents faced. Dr. Strich feels the same way about her clients.
“Pilates is very important for the baby boomer generation. As people age, joint movement decreases. With people living longer, there is a real need to maintain flexibility and movement. This makes a real difference in terms of quality of life.
“Pilates is a system of physical and mental conditioning developed by Joseph Pilates,” explains Dr. Strich about the man who developed the system, which was originally designed to rehabilitate ballet dancers. “He felt that achieving good health meant that the whole being – body, mind and spirit – needed to be addressed. Exercises are designed to condition the entire body.
In addition to the benefits of improved strength and flexibility, Dr. Strich says Pilates can facilitate relief of back and joint pain, a sleeker look, improvements in energy, endurance and sexual enjoyment, prevention of osteoporosis, and enhanced sleep.
Dr. Strich lives the life that she preaches. She is tall, lithe and graceful. She also advises her friends on poor posture and its outcomes, and offers gentle correction.
Pilates may indeed prove to be a natural outgrowth of podiatric medicine and a treatment that will prove beneficial for our aging patients.