The Secret to Staying Young? A strong Healthy Body These Simple Exercises Will Get You There

According to the U.S. Census, this year, people aged 50 and older now represent 45 percent of our country’s population. An American turns 50 every seven seconds—that’s more than 12,500 people every day. The 55-plus age group, fondly known as the baby boomers, control more than three-quarters of America’s wealth. They outspend other generations on consumer goods and services— they’re even the fastest-growing age group among gym members—by an estimated $400 billion each year, according to the U.S. Government Consumer Expenditure Survey. And the list goes on.

The Secret to Staying Young? A strong Healthy Body These Simple Exercises Will Get You There Photo Gallery

As a bonafide baby boomer myself, and one who has been practicing Pilates for 40 years, I can attest to the method’s longevity and health benefits. And I can also relate to what we baby boomers feel on the inside and out: young, vivacious and idealistic, while at the same time stiff, creaky and not as strong as we once were. Our bodies are changing, but our minds are not.

After teaching and talking with so many clients over the years, I have found that the main goals of the baby boomer are not a hot beach body or a model-like figure, but:

+ Flexibility: As Joe said, you are as young as your spine is flexible. A flexible spine prevents injury, keeps you active and is the key to a younger- feeling you.

+ Balance: We want the joy of movement without the fear of falling, and to be able to walk down the street with confidence and assurance.

+ Strength: A strong center of gravity (or the core) keeps us resilient.

+ Coordination: It helps keep our minds sharp and in control of our bodies.

This workout addresses all these issues. If we can master these simple exercises, we are on our way to achieving and maintaining a strong and centered body.

I developed this routine after I was diagnosed with a life-threatening acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor, in my right ear. The tumor had developed into my head and was pressing against my brain, causing severe dizziness and instability. My hearing and balance nerve in my right side had to be removed. These exercises helped in my recovery, and I still perform them to this day.

I’ve incorporated a pole and high-back chair to help you stay in alignment while keeping your balance in check as we practice moving from a strong center. The goal is to help you feel confident and agile wherever you are, so try to maintain this sense of awareness in your everyday activities.

Even though I created this workout for baby boomers, it’s perfect for all ages. I have a 14-year- old client, a 91-year-old and another recovering from a severe stroke, who all perform these exercises diligently two to three times per week. So whether you’re nine or 90, in shape or out, it’s never to late, or too early, to become aligned, balanced and centered; just start from a flexible spine, and an open mind and heart.

+ Assisted lunges prop: high-back chair purpose: encourages balance, coordination and stability setup: Stand sideways to the chair, an arm’s length away, with your feet parallel and slightly apart. Extend your arms to a T position, placing your near palm on the chair back, with your elbow slightly in front of you.

1. Find a focal point directly in front of you. Exhale, engaging your belly to lift your outside, or working, knee and then extending it out into a small lunge position, keeping your head and sternum high.

2. Inhale, engaging your belly, and push off from your working leg to return to the starting position. Do 6 reps.

3. Repeat step 1, but this time, turn your head toward your working leg; return your head to center, then come back to the starting position. Do 6 reps, alternating the direction you turn your head.

4. Repeat the entire sequence on your opposite side.

TIps: Stand tall, pull your scapula down and engage your core throughout. Keep “lifting” from the top of your head; do not tip your head forward. Note that the weight of the human head is 8 pounds, so a simple directional shift of the head will add a significant challenge to the body to achieve balance.

MODlFLCATlON: If alternating your head is too difficult, skip step 3.

ADVANCED: Perform the exercise without holding onto the chair.


Proving herself a leader in the field once again, Sheppard recently joined forces with The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts to offer a Teacher Training program, allowing students, both current and former, to get trained in the Sheppard Method Pilates. Participants chose from a four-week comprehensive (400 hours of training will be completed within a year) or a two-week mat certification, both held this past May and June.

For more information, and for future certification dates, visit calarts-the-art-of-pilates.

+ Balance building biocks

Prop: high-back chair or kitchen counter purpose: improves total-body balance setup: Stand tall, with your feet hip¬width apart and palms on the back of the chair, arms extended straight. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed in both feet, and pull your abdominals into your spine.

1.When you feel secure, inhale, lifting your right knee toward your waist, initiating the lift from the back of your buttocks.

2. Lift your hands off the chair; hold the position for 5 counts, breathing naturally throughout.

3. Exhale as you slowly lower your leg to the floor, returning your hands to the chair.

4. Repeat the sequence on your other side. Do 3-5 reps, alternating sides.

tIps: Pretend you’re wearing a girdle of steel around your lower body—don’t


Steps 1 & 2

Let your hips move. Keep your sternum open and abdominals engaged. Stay as “declumped” as possible.

MODIFICATION: If you do not feel secure enough to lift your arms, keep them on the chair.

ADVANCED: Increase the duration of the hold by 20 seconds.

+ lumbar articulation

Prop: none

Purpose: gradually warms and articulates the lumbar spine; perfect for when you first feel stiffness in the morning and for relaxing your body at the end of the day setup: Lie on the floor with your knees bent hip-width apart, feet flat on the floor and palms flat by your sides. Feel the backs of your shoulders on the floor, and imagine that your spine is cushioned against the floor as if you were lying on a cloud. Engage the back of your legs and buttocks, and elongate your neck.

1. Think of each of your vertebrae as a number: The tailbone is 1, L5 (the vertebra closest to your tailbone) is 2, L4 is 3, and so on, until you reach the number 7.

2. Inhale, and starting with number 1, slowly tilt your pelvis toward the ceiling, feeling your abdominals pull up under your rib cage. Lift your body off the floor one vertebra at time, mentally noting each number, until you reach number 3; exhale, slowly returning to the starting position.

3. Repeat step 2, but roll up to number 4; exhale, slowly returning to the starting position.

4. Continue to repeat step 2, rolling up an additional vertebra each time, until you reach number 7 (for a total of 5 lifts).

TIps: Keep your arms long and engaged at your sides, palms pressing down. Maintain the navel-to-spine engagement throughout. Let your breath facilitate the movement.

MODIFICAtION: If you feel uneasy about lifting your lumbar spine, keep your tailbone on the floor, and simply imagine that your spine is moving and articulating; the mind shapes the body, so envision the movement until you feel ready to implement it.

+ Ex croix

prop: high-back chair purpose: enhances balance, coordination and stability setup: Same as in Assisted Lunges, but your feet are in Pilates stance (heels together, toes apart.)

1. Inhale, engaging your belly, sweeping your outside, flexed foot forward, just a few inches off the floor, maintaining the turnout at your hip; exhale, lifting your pelvic floor as you lengthen your leg, bringing your foot back to the starting position.

2. Repeat step 1, but sweep your flexed foot out to your side, a few inches above the floor, keeping your leg a little bit in front of you.

3. Repeat step 1, but sweep your foot backward, and then again to your side.

Do 2-4 reps.

4. Repeat the entire sequence on your opposite side.

Tıps: Make sure not to swing your leg use control in sweeping your leg out, and even more control as you bring it back in. Stay strong in your standing leg, keeping active pressure through your foot centers.

MODIFICATION: Keep your foot on the floor throughout.

ADVANCED: Omit the chair, and just focus on using your core for stability. The slower you go and the more resistance you use, the more work you’re doing.

Setup steps 1 & 2

Setup & step 2

Gear Guide

Sheppard Method Pole ($45;

Balanced Body Hanging Mat


+ Standing cat stretch

Prop: high-back chair; dowel or pole purpose: increases flexibility while encouraging spinal articulation and lengthening or “declumping” setup: Stand with your back against a chair, feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding the dowel about an arm’s length in front of your body, elbows bent. Try to get your back as flat as possible, using the dowel for stability. Think of a straight line between the top of your head and tailbone, press your shoulder blades back, and engage your belly.

1. Exhale, dropping your tailbone, pulling your navel up as you round your spine, creating a C shape from head to tail.

2. Inhale and initiating from your center, lengthen out from your tail and top of your head to return to the flat-back position. Exhale as you continue to lengthen the top of your head and your tailbone in opposition, moving into a back extension and creating a U shape with your spine.


3. Exhale and with resistance on the dowel, roll up your spine, pushing your weight fully back onto your heels. Imagine that your vertebrae are numbered as you restack each. Do 1-3 reps.

TlPS: Keep your abdominals pulled up to your spine, and imagine that your spine is lengthening beyond your tailbone and the crown of your head.

ADVANCED: Omit the dowel.


Prop: high-back chair or wall; dowel or pole

Purpose: warms the body; promotes postural alignment, stability, balance, coordination and three-dimensional awareness setup: Stand tall with your back against a chair, feet in Pilates stance, and place your stacked hands on top of the dowel an arm’s length in front of your body, elbows soft. Feel as if there are magnets between your ankles, calves, knees and thighs, all pulling in toward each other. Pull your belly into your spine, then “declump,” making as much space between your pelvis and rib cage as possible, and open your shoulders.

1. Exhale, slightly bending your knees into a plie, keeping your spine against the back of the chair while lengthening the top of your head toward the ceiling; inhale, straightening your knees to return to the starting position, lifting from your center and “zipping” your inner thighs together. Do 8 reps, focusing your awareness on the back of your body.

2. Repeat step 1, and as you straighten your legs, rise onto your toes, feeling your weight shift onto the balls of your feet and between your first and second toes. Continue lengthening your spine toward the ceiling as you exhale, lowering your feet back to the floor, using the air as resistance. Do 8 reps.

TIps: Remember to “declump” yourself throughout—make as much space between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your pelvis as possible. Think of yourself as a telescope, making your body longer from the center. Imagine that the dowel is your own spine, in a true, straight, “plumb line”; stay as tall and aligned as it.

MODIFICATION: Skip step 2.

ADVANCED: Omit the dowel, and balance on your toes for longer.

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