Pilates is a fitness technique, developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s as an exercise program for injured dancers and soldiers, which focuses on strengthening the body with an emphasis on core strength. This helps to improve general body tone, fitness and overall well-being.
Similar to yoga, Pilates concentrates on posture, balance and flexibility. In Pilates the chance of injury is much lower than with other forms of exercise because it is not strenuous and one of the Principles of Pilates is to master the techniques, never straining, and building strength and tone in your body in a safe, slow and long-lasting manner.
Pilates also focuses on your mind-body connection. While doing the various exercises your mind needs to be constantly aware of your breath and the way your body moves. This focus and awareness is actually a form of meditation and it improves mental clarity, peace and happiness, an effect which is carried with you even after you leave the Pilates mat!
Can Anyone Do Pilates?
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.
If you’re a beginner you can 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.
It is recommended to check with your health professional if you haven’t exercised for a while, are pregnant, or have health problems.
What Health Benefits Can Be Obtained from Pilates?
So when considering what is pilates the biggest reason people ask about this exercise is they wonder what the health benefits are. As 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 – The exercises involve the use of muscles that you may not use on a daily basis. After the initial soreness, you’ll find that your muscles will be much more toned. This is especially good for older people and those who are normally quite sedate in their daily life as muscle tone is usually lost with age and inactivity.
- 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.
- Flexibility – As we age we tend to lose the flexibility we had when we were young. Pilates will restore your flexibility, gently at first of course. After a while though, you’ll be amazed at how much more flexible your body has become. This is especially important for avoiding injuries from falls.
- Improves your balance – Through the mind-body connection which is taught in Pilates you will become much more aware of how your body moves and performs. Therefore 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 won’t be able to think about all those responsibilities that weigh you down on a day to day basis. You’ll be more focused on your breathing and on the moves that you are making with your body. This is an excellent way to relieve stress.
- Gives you a general sense of well-being – Because Pilates focuses on providing balance between your mind and body it gives you an overall sense of well-being.
Will Pilates Help You to Lose Weight?
Because Pilates is a muscle strengthening form of exercise it can help you to trim and tone certain areas of your body especially your stomach, legs and buttocks. Classes can be tailored to offer either a gentle exercise program for providing core strength, flexibility and balance or a complete workout for a more rigorous exercise program.
Bear in mind though that Pilates is not classed as an aerobic exercise, so for effective weight loss you should combine your Pilates exercises with a healthy diet and some regular aerobic activity such as walking, swimming or cycling.
What Areas of The Body Does Pilates Target?
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 been useful for people who suffer from arthritis as it helps to keep your joints flexible. Because Pilates strengthens the thigh muscles this may be particularly useful in preventing arthritis and knee injuries.