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Fri 22nd Sep 2017

The Benefits of Pilates - Four Reasons Why Pilates Can Be Good For You

Pilates is a method to condition the body that was invented by Joseph Pilates (1880-1967) - initially as a response to his own health issues but then later to help others recover from injury.

Determined to improve his own fitness using bodybuilding, diving, skiing and gymnastics, Joseph Pilates developed and refined his methods during the First World War, and was able to help soldiers recover from injury and regain their strength. Moving to New York in 1926 he began to disseminate his ideas and since then his work has inspired many people to improve their overall health and well-being.

Although Pilates is now well known, many may not be aware of the range of benefits regular Pilates sessions can bring. So what are the specific benefits of Pilates? And how can it help you improve your health and state of mind? In this article, we look at four of the main benefits of Pilates.

1. You’ll feel more comfortable in your body

If you are used to sitting around at a desk all day it’s likely you’ll sometimes experience sore shoulders, a stiff neck or tightness in your lower back. Just dealing with the stress and pressure that life throws at us can make us feel uncomfortable - and any associated muscle tension can contribute to us feeling moody and in pain.

Pilates is a progressive, adaptable form of exercise, that trains the body in an integrative fashion - at your pace. This means there’s no pressure to perform so you can relax into the flow of learning. The sequence of connected movements also helps you to establish and reestablish healthy movement patterns for your body.

The mental focus also helps - as it’s only possible to do the movements with a keen concentration of the mind. Gradually, this increased awareness of the body, movement and alignment improves coordination and muscle control - so you’ll feel more present and your body more alive. This improved body awareness, when coupled with improvements in muscle tone, means you’ll feel more comfortable and confident in your body. This way of training also helps after the class - bringing a sharp new mindfulness of the body into the tasks we need to perform in daily life.

2. It’s easy on the joints

A lot of exercises such as aerobics and jogging can be really hard on the joints - especially the hips and knees. Pilates emphasises the alignment of the skeletal structure and smooth, fluid movements that strengthen the body in a way that does not heavily impact the load bearing joints. Strength and flexibility are improved gradually in Pilates whilst the alignment process means that the muscles around the joints will become more elastic and strong.

Even though each exercise does work the body, and each class does give you a thorough workout - as many Pilates practising athletes will testify - the overall effect is universally positive as the body is trained in a natural way - without stress or strain.

As well increasing the range of motion in your joints, Pilates also helps to mobilise the spine - something that Pilates practitioners consider to be very important to our overall health and fitness:

"If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young"
Joseph Pilates

3. It can ease back pain

One of the great things about Pilates is that it’s subtle. By working on very specific muscle groups and especially those associated with core stability, the body is gradually strengthened. This is just what anyone with back pain needs to help them manage an injury or recover from niggles or strains.

The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen and pelvic floor - all of which we rely on to support a strong, healthy back. Through working very specifically with correct alignment, these muscle groups will be worked as they were designed to. By integrating these muscle groups, Pilates helps the back recover from injury, prevent injury and stay healthy as we get older.

4. It can aid with recovery from surgery

The benefits of practising Pilates before surgery are tried and tested. Recovery can certainly be improved as a result of maintaining healthy muscles around a possibly compromised joint. If you haven’t managed any Pilates beforehand, then don’t worry - post-op there is still a lot that the exercises can offer.

After hip or knee surgery, for example, Pilates can certainly help. However, it has to be the right kind of programme that doesn’t compromise the body’s need to heal. Strengthening muscles, improving flexibility and learning to align the joints to maximise efficiency in movement are all aspects of Pilates that can help with recovery - however, a highly personalised approach is likely to be the only one that will work after the trauma any surgery can bring. Make sure you speak with your instructor beforehand to check that they have the time and expertise to help you with this.

The movements of Pilates also help to boost the immune system by gently massaging the lymphatic system - aiding the body’s natural healing process. In addition, the breathing techniques used in Pilates - which are designed to utilise the rib cage and increase lung capacity - improve the oxygenation of the blood and again boost the body's natural ability to heal itself.

Further benefits post-op include improved mindfulness of the body. This helps to prevent re-injury or performing movements in everyday life that can impede recovery.

This integrated system of training the body, focusing the mind and use of the breath is hard to find elsewhere - making it ideal for rehabilitation after surgery. It’s also worth noting that Joseph Pilates worked with many injured soldiers during World War One - thus his techniques were specifically geared towards helping the body recover after trauma.

Find out more and try a class for yourself

If you’d like to gain the benefits of Pilates for yourself then have a look here at our class timetable or call us on 07773 645748 for advice.