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Published on: 03 Apr 2017 by patri

Why Is Pilates Good For You?

More and more people are taking up Pilates, but what can it actually do for our bodies? Physio and More investigates.

What exactly is Pilates? Is it a fancy kind of yoga? Is it a martial art? If you aren’t familiar with Pilates, these may be the kind of questions going through your head when you first see a class going on at your local gym or village hall.

What is Pilates?

Pilates was introduced to the United States in the 1920s by a physical trainer named Joseph Pilates, as a way of helping injured dancers and athletes return to exercise gently and maintain their fitness levels. The techniques developed by Pilates contained around 500 exercises inspired by calisthenics, yoga and ballet.

As a form of exercise, Pilates can be either aerobic or non-aerobic, requiring a great deal of focus. Pilates positions and movements are flexible, adaptable and hugely accessible, and can even be individualised to every person’s needs. Think yoga, but with the addition of moving limbs when you’re in a stance in order to push your body further. Many of the movements can also be performed by children and pregnant women.

So, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s ask the most important question. Just what is so great about Pilates? Read on and we’ll tell you!

What are the benefits of Pilates?

There’s a reason Pilates have become so popular, as there is a lot they can do for both our bodies and our mind. These include:

  • Improving our flexibility
  • Balancing muscle strength on both sides of your body
  • Increasing muscular control of your limbs and back
  • Increasing muscle tone and strength, especially in your abdomen, your lower back, your hips and your buttocks – i.e. your core
  • Improving your posture
  • Improving the stabilisation of your spine
  • Preventing injuries relating to muscle imbalances
  • Rehabilitating injuries relating to muscle imbalances
  • Improving physical balance and coordination
  • Rehabilitating spinal injuries
  • Relaxing your neck, shoulders and upper back
  • Preventing musculoskeletal injuries
  • Increasing lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing
  • Improving your focus
  • Improving your body awareness
  • Managing your stress and promoting relaxation

Who can do Pilates?

Pilates is suitable for everybody, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced. You can adapt Pilates to your own personal requirements and physiology. Many exercises can be performed either with or without equipment.

However, certain groups should do their research before committing to Pilates. People who have recently had surgery, suffered a musculoskeletal injury, suffer from a medical condition, are pregnant or are extremely overweight will often need the help of a qualified instructor to adapt movements and positions to suit their physical capabilities.

Are there different forms of Pilates?

There are two basic forms of Pilates:

  • Mat-based Pilates: this is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your body weight for resistance. They aim to teach your supporting muscles to improve posture, balance and coordination.
  • Equipment-based Pilates: Some forms include weights such as dumbbells whilst others use small equipment which offers resistance to the muscles. Reformer Pilates is a particularly popular version of equipment-based Pilates, based on the use of a spring-loaded resistance machine designed specifically for stability and flexibility exercises.

How do you maintain quality in Pilates?

Quality and good form is the most important aspect of Pilates; rather than volume of movements or exertion. You should focus on doing the poses and movements correctly rather than doing as many as possible or picking up speed. The motto of good Pilates is always to: do fewer and do them right.

Pilates can be difficult to teach yourself. The help of a qualified instructor or a Pilates-trained physiotherapist can make all the difference, and make the exercises feel much more doable.

Pilates and physiotherapy go hand in hand

If you want to know if Pilates can be of benefit to you and whether certain exercises should be performed given your own injuries and issues, why not consult your physiotherapist for advice?

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