- Hannah Aylward
Ten Reasons to Practice Pilates
Pilates is a form of full-body, low-impact exercise that strengthens muscles while improving both postural alignment and flexibility. Pilates typically focuses largely on the core, with slow, precise movements and breath control. It strengthens and stabilizes your core, so that you can move efficiently while improving your posture, flexibility, and mobility.
Pilates can be done on the mat or on a machine, like a reformer. Either way, it offers the same amazing benefits. A 2016 study found that eight weeks of Pilates classes improved abdominal endurance, flexibility, and balance.
Pilates looks deceptively easy. But the often-tiny movements improve balance and core strength. Pilates does this in part by reinforcing the bond between mind and muscles, helping people engage the right muscles. This leads to better posture and control over the body’s movements.
Pilates offers plenty of benefits to your body, no matter your fitness background. Let’s get into the top ten benefits of pilates.
Should You Practice Pilates? Here are the Top 10 Benefits
1. Increases Bone Density
Weight-bearing exercises are known bone density builders. The fundamentals of Pilates offer a terrific platform for strengthening bones and preventing fractures if done properly. Bone, like muscle, is dynamic tissue and responds to resistance and weight-bearing exercises. Resistance exercise involves muscles pulling on bone to create tension, which fortifies the bone. Resistance in a Pilates workout comes from springs and resistance bands. Done correctly, Pilates exercises can help increase bone density when body parts move against the force of gravity. They also increase strength and muscle mass, which in turn help to support the bones.
*It is important to note that not all pilates exercises are safe for someone with osteoporosis.
2. Encourages Weight Loss
Pilates helps increase muscle strength, which can encourage safe and sustainable weight loss. In addition to the caloric burn during a typical class and the increased muscle mass, pilates helps strengthen the mind-body connection. This mindfulness that is practiced on the mat or machine, is likely transferred into other areas of life, like diet and stress management. When we begin to take care of ourselves in one area, we likely begin bringing mindful awareness to others as well. Long term, this encourages healthy weight loss.
3. Provides Relief from Back Pain
Pilates strengthens the core to support the back, teaches proper alignment and provides gentle stretching for tight back muscles due to misalignment and overuse. Plus, Pilates addresses underlying imbalances that often lead to poor posture and back pain. According to a study, people with lower back pain found significant pain relief after a four-week Pilates program maintained over a 12-month period.
4. Core Strengthening
The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles we rely on to support a strong, supple back, good posture, and efficient movement patterns. Pilates is based on efficiently contracting your abdominal muscles with every exercise. In addition, Pilates targets deep abdominal muscles like the transverse abdominis as well as superficial ones like the rectus abdominis muscles that form a “six-pack.” With its emphasis on correct alignment and proper form, the abdominals are required to fire effectively.
5. Increases Flexibility
Pilates works toward a safe increase in length and stretch of the muscles and range of motion within the joints. Most exercises involve movement in only one plane of motion (like forward and back). Pilates requires motion in several planes. Pilates sessions move the spine from flexion to extension, internal rotation to external rotation and side bending, allowing an increased range of motion throughout the body. Working within these additional planes of motion increases and improves flexibility.
6. Prevents Injuries
Pilates helps improve flexibility, increases strength and improves balance. These factors reduce your risk of injury. For example, increasing hamstring flexibility allows you to be less likely to hurt your back when completing common lifestyle movements, like bending over to get something off of the floor. In addition, improved strength links to improved dynamic control of movement, which minimizes injury. Pilates also provides mind-body awareness to create efficient movement patterns, reducing stress on joints, tendons, muscles and ligaments.
7. Improves Posture
Most of us struggle with poor posture due to sitting at a desk all day or constantly staring down at our phones. So posture improvement is needed! Pilates makes you more aware of your deep core, leaving you with a long lasting awareness to pull your stomach in and pull your shoulders down for proper spinal alignment. The development of a strong core allows you to freely move through daily tasks without pain and with improved posture. Consistently practicing proper core engagement in class, allows this alignment to stay with you throughout your day.
8. Adaptable to many fitness levels
One of the greatest benefits of Pilates is that, like yoga, it is adaptable to many different fitness levels. The foundations of Pilates, building from core strength, focusing on proper alignment, and a body-mind awareness, make Pilates accessible and applicable to all. With thousands of possible exercises and modifications, Pilates workouts can be tailored to individual needs.
9. Increases mind-body awareness
Like yoga, Pilates deeply interconnects the physical and mental bodies. Joseph Pilates, the inventor of Pilates, was adamant that Pilates included "the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit." When we exercise in a connected and tuned in state, the body and mind unite to bring about the most benefit from each exercise. The Pilates principles — centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow — are key concepts that are used to integrate body and mind.
10. Develops long, lean muscles
Your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks all remain contracted and engaged during a Pilates workout. This constant tension helps keep the core muscles lean and build better endurance and strength. In Pilates you stretch the muscle to its full extension, then contract it. A traditional strength-training workout in the weight room primarily consists of concentric muscle loading, which can be responsible for shorter, bulkier muscles. Conversely, Pilates incorporates more eccentric muscle loading, which creates longer, leaner muscles.