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Sagittal Spinal Posture After Pilates-Based Exercise in Healthy Older Adults

Kuo, Yi-Liang, PhD; Tully, Elizabeth A., PhD*; Galea, Mary P., PhD*

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31819c11f8
Exercise Physiology

Study Design. Longitudinal, repeated-measures study.

Objective. The aim of this study was to determine changes in sagittal spinal posture in older adults during standing and sitting after a Pilates-based exercise program.

Summary of Background Data. Pilates exercise is purported to improve posture, however, few peer-reviewed articles are available to provide scientific support. Most previous studies were conducted in young dancers, and the effect of Pilates exercise on spinal posture in older adults remained unclear.

Methods. Thirty-four healthy older adults aged over 60 years volunteered for this study. A two-dimensional PEAK Motus motion analysis system was used to measure sagittal spinal angles. Participants were tested on 2 occasions before the exercise program to establish a baseline measure, and undertook a supervised Pilates-based exercise program twice weekly for 10 weeks. Participants were tested on another 2 occasions, immediately after the exercise program, and after a short-term follow-up.

Results. Baseline measures in both standing and sitting postures remained unchanged except for the lumbar spine angle in sitting. Immediately after the Pilates-based exercise program, older adults stood with slightly decreased thoracic flexion and sat with slightly increased lumbar extension. No significant differences were found during the follow-up period.

Conclusion. The individually designed Pilates-based exercise program was feasible for healthy older adults, and the high attendance rate supports the suitability of the exercise program over a long period. Considering the variability of the baseline measure, small improvement was only observed in the thoracic kyphosis during standing. The long-term effect of Pilates exercise requires further investigation.

Using two-dimensional video analysis and a revised model of sagittal marker placement, healthy older adults subjects demonstrated small improvement of thoracic kyphosis in standing after a 10-week Pilates-based exercise program.

From the *School of Physiotherapy, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; and †Department of Physical Therapy, Shu Zen College of Medicine and Management, Kaohsiung County, Taiwan.

Acknowledgment date: July 3, 2008. First revision date: October 24, 2008. Second revision date: November 11, 2008. Acceptance date: November 13, 2008.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

This research was carried out as part of a PhD at The University of Melbourne by Yi-Liang Kuo.

This study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of The University of Melbourne (HREC No. 050431).

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Elizabeth A. Tully, PhD, School of Physiotherapy, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia; E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.