pilates daily exercise routine

Finding the motivation to exercise daily can be a challenge. When our to-do list and other priorities accumulate, it can leave us vulnerable to neglecting our fitness routine. We tell ourselves I don’t have time… Maybe later… I’m just too tired… as we travel through our busy days.

But what if we changed our thinking? What if we approached exercise, or movement, with the mantra “take your vitamins.”

Simply defined, vitamins are substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally. Movement vitamins, then, can be explained as exercises that our bodies need to function normally.

Maybe you are a walker, runner, gardener, or knitter. Keeping your body balanced by practicing simple movement every day can help you continue to do whatever you love in life.

Benefits of Daily Movement

Over the many years I have been working with clients teaching Pilates, the best results come when people commit to a short daily routine. It becomes a habit like taking your vitamins. Whatever movement or fitness you prefer, you’ll notice that when you don’t do it, you don’t feel as good.

Prevent Injury

Injury prevention is by far the biggest reason to move a bit every day. Our small muscles that stabilize joints can atrophy when they aren’t used regularly. A daily movement vitamin routine, whether it’s running, walking, or gardening, will maintain strength and support the other fitness activities you love.

Minimize Aches and Pains

Daily movement helps minimize the normal aches and pains of aging. By keeping tissues mobile and supple, you avoid some of the stiffness that causes discomfort. Movement will also bring circulation to your joints, reducing inflammation.

Keep Your Balance

In our 60s and beyond, we can no longer take our balance for granted. Two ways we can work at maintaining our balance are by practicing balance exercises (like standing on one foot) and by continuing to move a lot. A daily movement routine covers both bases.

Stay Mobile

You have the power and control over your mobility as you age. Factors like strength, balance, and flexibility all play a role. So does your individual inherited posture and what you love to do all day. This might sound complicated but it doesn’t need to be.

Joseph Pilates was known for saying “If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”

Sleep Well and Awake Refreshed

Moving your body a bit every day will help tire it out so you can fall and stay asleep. You’ll awake refreshed and ready to focus on the day ahead. Once you get into this pattern with your movement vitamin routine, it will be easier to keep this sleep-wake cycle going.

20-Minute Exercise Routine

Follow along with me by watching the video above or guide yourself through the gentle exercises listed below. To get the most out of these exercises, here are some tips:

  • Practice this routine on a mat on the floor. If you do a seated routine if you prefer that option.
  • It’s important with osteoporosis or osteopenia to avoid end range movements. Meaning, don’t twist your spine or reach forward with force. Always follow the advice of your health professional specific to your own body and circumstances.
  • Only do as many repetitions as you can manage with good form. This includes keeping your pelvis stable and your abs “hollowed” (abdominal exercises) and keeping your chest open and wide.
  • Go slow and add repetitions as your endurance increases.
  • If your back or neck hurts, stop and rest. Moving through pain is never a good idea.
  • Get help from a fitness professional or PT if you have had abdominal surgeries, or if you don’t feel your abdominal muscles working. Same if you feel strain in your low back or neck consistently.

Arm Circles

Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Place your arms by your sides with your palms facing in towards the body. Take a nice inhale to lift your arms up toward the ceiling and then reach them overhead only as far as ribcage and shoulder stabilization can be maintained.

Exhale to circle your arms wide out to sides and return down to your starting position. Repeat 4 times and switch directions for 4 circles.

Cat Stretch

Begin kneeling on all fours. Your arms should be underneath your shoulders and knees directly underneath the hips, slightly apart. Feel your spine reaching long from tail to head. Inhale to grow longer and find length through the spine.

As you exhale, use your abdominals to round your spine like a Halloween cat. Start from your tailbone and leave the head for last. Hold this c-curve position while you inhale to breathe into the sides of your ribcage rounding further. Finish with an exhale and beginning with the tail end of the spine extend one vertebra at a time until you return to your starting position. Repeat 6-8 times.

Spinal Rotation

Begin kneeling with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Your spine should be in a neutral position and feel as though it’s reaching long from tail to head. Your shoulder blades are stable against your rib cage. Take an inhale and extend one arm out to the side.

As you exhale, lead with your fingertips to thread your arm under your body. On your next inhale, return your arm out to the side. Exhale to open your chest and allow your spine to rotate as you then reach your arm to the ceiling. Inhale to return to your starting position and repeat with your other arm. Repeat 4 times on each side.

Hip Release

Begin lying on your back with knees bent and feet about hip distance apart. Your arms should be long by your sides. As you inhale, you’ll release the hip joint and let your right leg fall to the side as far as possible without moving any other part of your body.

Now slide your leg out along the mat without letting your foot leave the mat as it straightens and rotates into a long parallel position. Exhale to rotate your leg in toward the body and then bend your knee to slide it back up to the starting position. Repeat 4 times on each side.

Hip Rolls

Start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Your arms are by your sides. Take a deep breath into the sides of your rib cage and feel yourself grow long through your spine. As you exhale, recruit your abdominals into an imprinted position by feeling your hip bones and ribs pull closer together and there is little or no gap between your spine and the floor.

Once imprinted, articulate your spine starting from the tail to roll up into a bridge position where wide shoulders support your weight. Your hip joints are extended, and your knees should feel they are energetically reaching long over your toes.

Take an inhale to stay here at the top, then roll down as you exhale to return to your starting position. Imagine your sit bones reaching toward your heels as you articulate down through your spine. Repeat 8 times.

Single Leg Lifts

Start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet hip distance apart and flat on the floor. Inhale to prepare your body for movement and as you exhale lift one leg to a tabletop position. Inhale, stay, and then exhale as you lower your leg back to the floor. Repeat 8 times, alternating sides.

Toe Taps

Begin lying on your back with your legs in a tabletop position – knees bent and lifted, shins parallel to the floor. Your arms should be by your sides and gently pressing down into the mat. Draw your abdominals in and pull your ribs down and toward your hips to an imprinted position.

During the exercise don’t let your pelvis move and keep your abdominals and ribs from popping up or out. Start with an exhale as you reach one toe down toward the mat. When you feel that your pelvis might move, lift the leg back up. Alternate feet for 8 sets or as many as you can do while keeping your pelvis stable.

Breaststroke Prep

Begin lying on your stomach, with your nose hovering just off of the mat. Your arms should be bent in a “W” shape with hands near shoulders. Keep your legs long and pressed together (or slightly apart for comfort) with your toes relaxed. Breathe to feel yourself grow longer and find length through the spine.

As you exhale, feel your shoulder blades glide down your back, and reach your sternum and the crown of your head forward to lengthen the spine. Your toes should feel as though they are reaching back. Now you’re ready to press through your arms to lift the upper body off of the mat slightly into an extended position.

Inhale to stay here and continue to lengthen through your spine. As you exhale, lower back down while keeping your body long back to your starting position. Repeat 8 times.

Side Leg Lift

Begin lying on your side with your shoulders, legs, and hips all stacked so that your body is in one long straight line. Your toes can be gently pointed, and you can support your head with your bottom arm. Use your top arm to help stabilize yourself by resting it on the mat in front of your body.

Make sure that your abdominals are engaged so your bottom rib and oblique are hovering off of the mat. Inhale as you reach your top leg longer, creating space in the hip joint. Then, lift your leg to hip height.

Breathe out as you flex your foot and lower the top leg back down to the starting position. Repeat 8 times and then roll over and repeat on the other side.

Simple Leg Rocking

Start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, right next to each other. Your hands can reach out to a “T” shape on the sides of your body. Start with gentle rocking of the knees to one side and then the other side, not moving too far in either direction.

Breathe as you move and ease your back and hips into this gentle movement. Then, let your knees fall closer to the floor on one side. Using your abdominals, exhale to pull your legs back to upright. Keep switching sides using your breath and your abs to pull your legs upright. Repeat 8 times alternating sides.

Seated Side Stretch

Start in a seated position feeling straight and tall with your legs criss-crossed in front of you or sitting on a cushion for comfort. Inhale to lift one arm over your head while keeping your shoulders down. As you exhale, recruit your abdominals, lengthen through your spine, and arch your upper body over to one side.

Make sure you continue to face forward as you bend over as though you’re in a toaster slot. Inhale to lift yourself back up to your starting position sweeping your arm over and back down to your side. Repeat to the opposite side 4 sets.

Consistency is Key

We hope this basic exercise routine helps you feel great and ready to move through your day. Remember, consistent practice is an essential ingredient to feeling meaningful change in your body. Taking your daily movement vitamins will start you on the right path.

When you’re ready for more, Elaine’s studio offers over 45 weekly interactive livestream classes with expert instructors, many perfect for beginners.