Red Spring Pilates owner Kelly Reynolds works with Carolyn Tisdale.

Studies show that keeping your staying strong is key to flexibility and balance which will improve your mental and physical health.

Featured photo by Stacy Gittleman

Life is a marathon. From getting up and out of chairs to hauling in groceries or hoisting a toddler onto one’s hip, daily tasks add up and take a toll on our bodies.

Studies have repeatedly proven the mental and physical benefits of keeping in shape that go way beyond looking good in a swimsuit. Kelly Reynolds, owner of Pilates studio Red Spring in West Bloomfield, said the looking good part is just a side-effect of having strong muscles that improve posture, reduce pain and increase stability as we age.

Reynolds, who started her career in environmental science but reinvented herself as a Pilates instructor after the exercise healed her abdominal muscles after childbirth, said how you fit in a dress or jeans should not be the reason to enter into a sustainable exercise regimen.

“Women and men alike come to me for reasons that go deeper than aesthetics,” Reynolds said. “They come because you want to feel good and keep mobile throughout the day. People want to get on the floor and play with their grandchildren or go kayaking or play tennis and golf into retirement. Pilates gives people the strength in their deepest core muscles that give them the ability to function.”

Reynolds said the reason Pilates is so effective is that it works the body’s “powerhouse” core muscles: the deep, stabilizing muscles that support the spine and the torso. Working on a reformer machine also strengthens the stabilizing leg muscles to take the strain off knees. Some of Reynolds clients, such as Carolyn Tisdale of West Bloomfield, have found improvement and pain reduction even after multiple knee surgeries. Reynolds also gives her clients exercise homework and tips on how perform daily tasks without causing strain or injury.

Some of Reynold’s clients reclaimed flexibility and mobility and a pain-free life after enduring surgery and chronic pain after sports-related injuries.

Rick Tyner, 59, of West Bloomfield, was an avid ice hockey player and athlete before rupturing a disc on the ice about a decade ago. Tyner needed back surgery, but years later still suffered from chronic pain. Then, he stared doing training sessions with Reynolds and describes it as a “life-saver.”

“By strengthening the muscles around the spine, you are taking all that work and strain off of your spinal cord,” Tyner said. “It works specific sets of muscles. To get the results I wanted, I took private training sessions with Reynolds three times a week for six months. It takes time and consistency to build that strength. Now, after three years, I am healthier than when I was younger.”

Balance is the Key to Staying Mobile

In addition to maintaining core strength, good balance into middle age and beyond is also key to living a fully mobile life. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. But falling does not have to be an acceptable inevitability of getting older.

Lisa Fein is a balance instructor who teaches group classes at the West Bloomfield Recreation Center as well as classes at assisted living centers and private home-based sessions. Her clients range from people in their 70s and 80s who have never regularly exercised to those who have been active all their life.

Clients also come to Fein, who has a master’s degree in exercise science,  to continue to improve balance and function after completing physical therapy or seek her advice on how to continue safely exercising after receiving a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

From getting down on a yoga mat to sitting or standing behind a chair for support, Fein’s clients exercise to what levels are available to them and progress as their strength and balance improve. Some of Fein’s clients, with enough practice, graduate from canes and walkers to walking independently again.

Most don’t think about it, but walking is a feat of keeping one’s balance, Fein explained.

“Many of my clients are a work in progress,” Fein said. “I have had patients who first came to me using a walker after having a brain tumor removed. With time, support and consistent exercise, he noticed increased strength and progressed in time to walk independently. Above all, I teach my clients how to most safely move their bodies to keep active.”