Pilates is a form of exercise which concentrates on strengthening the body with an emphasis on core strength. This helps to improve general fitness and overall well-being.
Developed by a man called Joseph Pilates in Germany, who he was a carpenter and gymnast. He invented Pilates as an exercise program for injured dancers and soldiers while living in the UK. Joseph Pilates believed that physical and mental health were closely connected.
It is very similar to Yoga, as it concentrates on posture, balance and flexibility. In Pilates, the chance of injury is much lower than with other more strenuous forms of exercise.
Pilates also focuses on the mind-body connection. While doing the various exercises your mind needs to be constantly aware of your breathing and the way your body moves.
Because Pilates can be modified to provide either a gentle strength training program or a challenging workout, most people would have no problem with this form of exercise. It is suitable both for beginners and for people who already exercise regularly.
Many beginners will start with basic exercises and then once you’ve mastered those, you can work on the more advanced moves. It’s a good idea when you’re just starting out in Pilates to go to Pilates exercise classes or have a private instructor. This way the instructor can make sure that you are doing the exercises correctly to avoid any injury.
Pilates may not be recommended if you have the following conditions:
- Unstable blood pressure.
- A herniated disk.
- Severe osteoporosis.
- A risk of blood clots.
Pilates focuses on core strength, posture and flexibility the health benefits include:
Good posture – Pilates will teach you to gain and maintain good posture. The exercises require that your body is always in alignment. This is especially beneficial if you suffer from lower back pain.
Muscle Tone – Pilates exercises concentrate on muscles that you may not use on a daily basis. After a short period of time, you’ll find that your muscles will be much more toned. This especially benefits older people who are not so active in their daily life, and as a result muscle tone is usually lost.
Flexibility – As we get older we tend to lose the flexibility we had when we were young. Pilates will gently help you restore your flexibility. You’ll be amazed at how flexible your body will become. This especially benefits you from avoiding injuries from falls.
Flat abdominal muscles – Because Pilates focuses on strengthening your core which includes your abdominal muscles, you’ll find that one of the benefits of Pilates is that it will result in a flat stomach.
Balance – Pilates teaches you how to become more aware of how your body moves and performs through mind and body connection. Pilates not only improves your physical balance through correct posture but will also restore your mind-body balance.
Reduces stress – When doing the exercises, you’ll be totally engrossed and will forget about all those responsibilities that weigh you down on a day to day life. You’ll be so focused on your breathing and on the moves that you are making with your body. This is an excellent way to relieve stress.
Well-Being – Because Pilates focuses on providing a balance between your mind and body it gives you an overall sense of well-being.
Key areas of benefit
Pilates works mainly on your core which includes your abdominal area and your spinal area. This is why Pilates can be extremely beneficial for people who suffer from lower back pain.
Other areas of your body that are strengthened and toned through Pilates include your legs, especially your upper thighs, and your buttocks.
Pilates has also proved beneficial for arthritis sufferers as it helps to keep your joints flexible. Because Pilates strengthens the thigh muscles it can be particularly successful in preventing arthritis and knee injuries.
Pilates and Rehabilitation
Here at Mend Physio, we work with Pilates as part of our rehabilitation and wellness program. Research has shown that Pilates can be an effective treatment for injuries and illnesses such as:
- Chronic neck and back pain.
- Hip or knee replacements.
- Multiple sclerosis.
It is also excellent for athletes, dancers and other sports professionals who have had some kind of injury and need rehabilitation to get back into top form.
As Pilates is a low-impact exercise, it can be tailored to work on certain areas of your body as long as you have a trained and qualified instructor.
Pilates improves postural awareness and muscle control, reducing the split in abdominal muscles by building the abdominal muscles from the deepest muscles outwards. With a stronger core and improved awareness of muscle control, it can reduce pain in the lower back and pelvis. It also helps to improve control of the pelvic floor, reducing the risk of stress, incontinence and other problems.
Pilates can help you return to your regular fitness regime and get back to the activities you want to do. The focus on the deep abdominal muscles, which we sometimes refer to as ‘corset’ muscles, helps to regain your pre-pregnancy figure.
Postnatal Pilates will help prepare your body if you plan to get pregnant again in the future.
Postnatal Pilates will benefit your baby too! The exercises make you stronger with better control around your low back and pelvis so you will have more energy and less pain, therefore you will be able to play with your baby and give your baby the time she/he needs with you to develop.
For any women reading who do not have children – now is the time to start your pelvic floor exercises! Whether or not you plan to have children everyone should be doing them, including men!