Background: With ageing, the ability to mobilize fat is reduced and this, coupled with gradual decrease in lean body mass (LBM) from lessened exercise, allows for an increased body fat percentage (%BF). Exercising is considered a key to maintaining an appropriate body mass (BM), as it improves fat oxidation, while maintaining LBM. Although the effects of endurance and/or resistance training on fat mass (FM) and LBM in the elderly have well been established, limited data are forthcoming regarding the effects of Pilates as a training modality on these variables in the elderly.
Objective: The present study was therefore conducted to determine the effects of a mat Pilates programme on body fat in elderly women.
Methods: Fifty sedentary, apparently healthy females aged 60 years and older were randomly assigned a control (CG, n = 25) or an intervention (IG, n = 25) group. The IG took part in an eight-week progressive mat Pilates exercise programme, three times weekly while the CG were instructed to maintain their normal daily activities throughout the eight-week experimental period. All subjects underwent pre- and post-test in which FM and LBM were assessed.
Results: Eight weeks of mat Pilates demonstrated a significant (p ≤ 0.05) decrease in % BF (p = 0.016) and FM (p = 0.038), with a significant increase in LBM (p = 0.006), while not showing any significant changes (p ≥ 0.05) in BM (p = 0.979) and BMI (p = 0.992). The CG, however, did not produce any significant (p ≥ 0.05) changes in any of the tested anthropometric variables (BM: p = 0.266; BMI: p = 0.123; % BF: p = 0.516; FM: p = 0.937 and LBM: (p = 0.522) after completion of the eight-week Pilates programme.
Conclusion: An eight-week mat Pilates exercise programme may contradict or even reverse some of the most serious consequences of ageing associated with an increased fat mass and reduced lean body mass in elderly females.