Many fitness fads come and go, but Pilates – developed in the early 20th century, has proven its staying power. There are many reasons why it has endured – hopefully this list below will make you grab your mat and give it a go!
Men or women, young or old, from expectant mums to people with injury and back pain, and even elite athletes, can all benefit from Pilates. For example, David Beckham credits Pilates with extending his football career. There are literally hundreds of exercises and modifications possible for each individual, so you can get a really tailored workout.
For most of us, the core is the weakest part of our bodies, but it’s our centre, where all our strength originates from. We can train our legs and arms to be strong with weight training, but in Pilates you are never working just one muscle. Pilates focuses on sequenced exercises that constantly engage the core, leading to flat abs and a strong back, among other benefits.
Our daily activities can put pressure on the body which in turn can cause muscle imbalances. For example, mums constantly picking up their small children and balancing them on one hip, people carrying heavy bags on one shoulder and sports like golf where you repeatedly bend over a ball and twist in one direction. This overuse of the same muscles creates imbalances in the shoulders, neck, hips and feet, but the most vulnerable area is the lower back (the lumbar spine). Pilates works to restore the balance by working deep to muscles re-align the body.
Neck ache, back ache, headache, even stomach ache can all occur as a result of bad posture. In Pilates we work towards neutral alignment, where the muscles are not straining to hold your body up and your head, hips, feet and so on are positioned in such a way as to allow muscles to work effectively, without putting excess strain on one muscle group over another.
Forget crunches! Pilates strengthens your abdominal muscles, including the obliques. Pilates is based on effectively contracting your abdominal muscles with each exercise. In addition, Pilates targets deep abdominal muscles like the transverse abdominis as well as superficial ones like the rectus abdominis muscles that form the six pack.
Unlike some forms of exercises, Pilates does not over-develop certain parts of the body and neglect others. While Pilates focuses on core strength, it trains the body as an integrated whole.
In Pilates you are not looking to build muscles for show. You are building toned muscles that work perfectly within the context of the body as a whole, and the functional fitness it needs.
In Pilates, we work towards a safe increase in length and strength of the muscles and range of motion within the joints. It can also complement training and other forms of exercise and helps with recovery.
If you practice Pilates regularly, you will change your body. Pilates creates long, lean, strong muscles. Once you have the routine down, expect to work up a light sweat. The formula for weight loss remains the same: burn more calories than you consume. Because Pilates is a full-body exercise, it will help you do just that!
Pilates is so versatile that you can do it almost anywhere – at home, in the gym or studio, in a hotel room or on the beach! Even if all you’ve got is 15 minutes, you can reap the benefits just from doing a few simple sequenced exercises. All you need is your own body weight to use as resistance. If you want to up the intensity of your practice, then just add in balls, bands and other small equipment.
Stress is one of the biggest negative factors of modern life, affecting your physical and mental wellbeing. Frequent exercise is one of the best remedies for stress and has many benefits. As well as being a great form of exercise Pilates focuses on breathing – a deep, mindful pattern of breathing that instantly enhances feelings of calm and release in the body and mind.
If you would like to benefit from Pilates, for example if you want to strengthen your back, then come along to one of my Pilates classes in Brighton and Hove or book in for a 121. I teach Pilates at the Healthy Living Company in Hove, and Patcham High School in Brighton.