I have been practising Pilates for around 15 years, the benefits to my body and mind continue even 15 years on. I enjoy lots of varied exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle but Pilates offers me something no other workout does.
To summarise, Pilates benefits your body by building strength (not just in the core muscles but the whole body), it is a whole body workout so you will find your whole body benefits. Your flexibility improves, in both your muscles and joints. You will spend the whole Pilates lesson concentrating, therefore you benefit from a sense of relaxation and being present in the moment. Your co-ordination will improve and you will benefit from conditioning your body to protect it from injury.
1. Building strength. Pilates is well known for building strength in the 'core' however Pilates isn't just about building core strength, it is about activating muscles that control movement. By working in certain positions and controlling how we move, Pilates will encourage activation in various areas of the body. I describe Pilates as a whole body workout, because that is exactly what it is. Pilates also works to improve movement patterns of a joint or area of the body.
2. Improving flexibility. Our joints and muscles can stiffen for a number of reasons, Pilates focuses on very specific mobilisation exercises, stretches and strengthening, that combined, improve the flexibility in the joints and muscles.
3. Concentration. It takes an awful lot of concentration to ensure you are in the right position, activating the right areas and moving in a certain way. Concentration during a Pilates session is essential. By concentrating it allows you to really focus on your body and more importantly how your body is moving, I often find this level of concentration helps my patients to understand how their body may have compensated due to injury or how their movement patterns have become dysfunctional.
4. Relaxation, concentrating on your body and how it moves allows you to become very much present in the moment (like mindfulness does) that along with the focused breathing technique, you find yourself leaving a Pilates class much calmer and relaxed than when you walked in!
5. Breathing, one thing that Joseph Pilates thought was that by using the breathing technique you were able to blow away disease within the lungs. This isn't backed up by any research, but it is interesting to see his thought process behind the breathing technique. The breathing technique is used to encourage the best activation of the core muscles, as we exhale our deep tummy and pelvic floor muscles contract, which helps with improving the strength and function of the muscles. The breathing focus can also aid in relaxation.
6. It is a progressive exercise. Pilates can be done by anyone of any age and any ability. There are beginner exercises, intermediate exercises and advanced. Having said that I have many of my patients that continue at a beginner level because they still greatly benefit from the exercises is a beginner Pilates class.
7. Balance. I always ensure that my classes start and end in standing, almost every class I teach includes some balance work. Balance work improves joint proprioception (which is your brains ability to know where your joints are). Proprioception weakens with pain, age and injury. By working in balanced postures we also challenge our stabilising muscles in functional positions.
8. Posture. When patients ask me what the best posture is, my answer is 'the best posture is your next posture' meaning that movement is key to reducing your risk of back pain whilst sitting, not sitting bolt upright! Having said that I see lots of people with obvious postural weaknesses that causes them symptoms. Pilates improves the alignment of the body to teach you how to use the right muscles at the right time .
Your Pilates Physio has a range of workouts that can help both with injury, pain, strength and flexibility training, see our workouts. We offer a 14 day trial.