Being in good physical health is essential for reaching your full potential and fulfilling your life’s purpose. It translates to a longer lifespan, more energy, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases. Following a healthy lifestyle is a daily practice involving three core components: adequate sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and regular exercise.
Though running, jumping jacks, and other physically demanding activities may first come to mind when thinking about exercise, there are many other forms of movement that are less intensive, but still provide a great workout. Examples include walking, swimming, Pilates, and more.
Whatever way you choose to move your body is great. The best exercise for you is the one that you will do. However, there are certain advantages of low-impact over high-intensity exercises, including reduced risk for injury, improved flexibility, and less stress on the body.
Furthermore, low-intensity exercises can be especially beneficial for individuals aged 60 and above. According to the 2015 academic review, “The effects of Pilates exercise training on physical fitness and well-being in the elderly” the practice helps boost the quality of life and independence in the elderly by way of improved strength, balance, and mood states.
Blanquita Rodriguez is a certified Pilates instructor who hosts free weekly classes through Harlingen Parks and Recreation. Her classes have more than a dozen regular attendees, who range in age from early 20s up to 80s.
“This exercise is for everybody — children, adults, men, women — no matter their skill level,” she said. “Every exercise can be adjusted for beginner, advanced and intermediate so they avoid strain.”
Pilates is a system of repetitive exercises promoting strength, flexibility, and stability. It does not require any special equipment and may be practiced at home on your own with just a towel or yoga mat.
“I love it because I get to see people get stronger, feel better about themselves and improve their lives,” she said. “And it’s not just working your body, you’re working your mind. Every time you finish class, you have more energy and feel younger.
“When you come here, you forget about everything. You put your mind into focusing on the exercises and get to relieve your stress from work or whatever problem you may have at home.”
Gracie Nuñez has been attending the classes for a year. As a business owner, she said she prioritizes exercise to help her relax.
“At 56, I now prefer low-impact forms of exercise,” she said. “So, I started coming to this class and have seen changes. My weight may sometimes go up and down, but the most important thing is I feel my body is strong, and I have lost inches.”
In addition to the physical and mental benefits, Nuñez shared she also enjoys the camaraderie, as being in a group setting helps keep her motivated.
During class, Rodriguez said it’s important for her to not only provide instruction and modifications for those newer to Pilates, but to maintain high energy. She credits this to her family background in the restaurant industry.
“When you have a business, it’s very important to greet people, talk to them and come with good energy,” she said. “My father always told me that when people leave the restaurant, you tell them, ‘God bless you,’ so that’s the way I am. I love to uplift and motivate.”
For anyone interested in trying Pilates, Rodriguez encourages them to look for a local class so the instructor can help ensure correct form and offer modifications if needed. She invites everyone to join her class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. inside the Harlingen Cultural Arts Center.