Arthro-Pilates and Lupus



Pilates instructor fights arthritis


Original article appeared in The Canadian Jewish News, February 8 2007
By Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf

(Click image to enlarge)

Lori Weisbrod displays a modified jackknife position in Arthro-Pilates™


Photography and permission to publish:
Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf


Nearly 100,000 Canadians are diagnosed with arthritis annually.

For many, it’s a natural result of aging. But for others, like 46 year old Toronto native Lori Weisbrod, the disease strikes them in their prime.

First diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis as a teenager, Weisbrod has spent most of her adult life fighting pain and frustration.

According to the Arthritis Society, the condition causes swelling and pain in and around the joints and also affects tendons and ligaments.

“At 18, I was put in a hospital for a month and told I would be in a wheelchair within 10 years.” Weisbrod said. “It was devastating to think of that as my future. It took me a long time to wrap my mind around dealing with a disability and with changes in my body physically”.

There is no known cure, but recent improvements in medication have helped mitigate Weisbrod’s pain somewhat. Thankfully, the wheelchair prediction never materialized, but that’s partly due to the proactive measures Weisbrod has taken and to her indomitable spirit.

In 1988, she had to give up her dream career as a make-up artist because her hands became too stiff to do the detailed work. Weisbrod made the best of it and became a cosmetic consultant for the elderly and people with disabilities instead.

Due to the progressive nature of her arthritis, a continuing life of physical obstacles and hardships followed. But instead of crying, Weisbrod shifted focus once again, discovering a new passion: Pilates.

In 2000 she attended her first class in the gentle exercise method known as Pilates and became hooked. The feeling of well-being that washed over her after the classes also opened her eyes to the potential benefits of the program for all arthritis sufferers.
“If you had asked me five years ago if I would be in the fitness industry, I would have laughed you out of the room,” she said.

Not anymore.

In September 2006, Weisbrod obtained her certification in “mat pilates” and quickly devised a program she called arthro-pilates, to help those with her affliction. She found a local studio where she could give classes and word spread quickly.

“I became very fit doing Pilates,” she said. “People started asking me how I did it. So I decided that I needed to teach this to others with arthritis.”

Weisbrod made the necessary modifications to standard Pilates exercises so people with arthritis could do them.  Positions were altered to decrease pain, improve range of motion, tone the body and increase strength and stamina.

She believes it’s an idea whose time has come.“Arthro-Pilates enables people with arthritis to move more efficiently in their daily lives,” she said. “They can get off a couch better, life grocery bags, and it activates the pelvic floor, which helps with urogenital functions”. Weisbrod acknowledges that many with the disease find it intimidating to attend “regular” Pilates classes, because they’re self-conscious about their limited abilities or their physical appearance.“I bring that comfort level to them, because I’ve been through it and I understand,” she said. Understand is an understatement.

Over the years, Weisbrod has undergone 13 surgeries. She has had wrist fusions, joint replacement on her hands and feet, her jaw set and her knees repaired. “It’s been a journey,” she said.

But she is certain that arthro-pilates is one of the answers to stave off despondency about it all, for her and for others.“I’m a survivor, a fighter. So, through Pilates, I found a way to do what I needed to and not give up,” she said.

She believes the timing is also perfect for a certain demographic.“Baby-boomers….are aging with arthritis,” she said. “They can’t always pound it out on the treadmill anymore. They need a gentle, yet effective, means to stay fit.”

Weisbrod hopes to introduce Arthro-Pilates™ to the masses and make it a household name in 2007.


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