Pilates is a form of exercise which concentrates on strengthening the body with an emphasis on core strength. This helps to improve general 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 more strenuous forms of exercise.
Pilates also focuses on the mind-body connection. While doing the various exercises your mind needs to be constantly aware of your breathing and the way your body moves.
This form of exercise was developed by Joseph Pilates in Germany where he was a carpenter and gymnast. He invented Pilates as an exercise program for injured dancers and soldiers while living in the UK. Joseph Pilates believed that physical and mental health were closely connected. In the 1920's he immigrated to the US and opened a Pilates studio in New York. Originally this form of exercise was called Contrology.
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.
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 older or pregnant, or have health problems.
Pilates may not be recommended if you have the following conditions:
Unstable blood pressure.
A herniated disk.
A risk of blood clots.
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 daily. 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 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 a balance between your mind and body it gives you an overall sense of well-being.
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.
Can Pilates be Done at Home?
Pilates can be a family affair not just for individuals, busy parents with kids can do it too. You can certainly practice Pilates in your own home, which is a great bonus. There are many instructional videos available which you can follow along with. All you need is a mat and some loose, comfortable clothing.
If you're a beginner, however, you should take a couple of classes first so that you can be shown the correct method of doing the exercises. This will avoid any injury that could occur from doing the various moves incorrectly.
So if you are looking for a body and muscle strengthening form of exercise that can be tailored to your particular fitness level and which will help to keep you flexible, then you should consider trying Pilates. Be prepared though, you'll find that this type of exercise is quite addictive - but enjoyable exercise has to be a good thing!