Once you get to know more about the varied potential benefits of Pilates, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner. While a lithe body and killer abs might seem like the key Pilates benefits, this form of exercise can greatly impact everything from how you move to how you think — ultimately resulting in an improved overall quality of life.
Read on to learn more about what Pilates is, what sets it apart from other forms of exercise, and what you need to know before starting a Pilates exercise program. You’ll also learn about all the potential health benefits you can reap from a dedicated practice or training regimen.
What Is Pilates And How Does It Work?
History Of Pilates
Pilates was originally conceived by Joseph Pilates post-WWI as a means to rehabilitate injured soldiers and help them regain functional movement. The Pilates method of exercise drew from both Eastern and Western ideologies to create a complete mind-body practice.
It wasn’t long before Pilates’ premium on core strength, postural alignment, and controlled, graceful movement drew the attention of professional dancers, who turned to this training method to supplement their skillset.1
Today, Pilates is no longer restricted as a rehabilitative or supplementary exercise (though some practitioners still base their practice on these purposes). Everyone from pregnant women to elite athletes rely on Pilates exercises to help support their overall physical fitness. But how exactly does Pilates provide its potential mental and physical benefits?
Pilates is essentially a series of exercises that simultaneously helps build strong muscle while supporting your flexibility, using small, controlled movements. While much of the focus seems to be on the core muscles as the source of power, Pilates is a gentle exercise that targets the entire body, helping sculpt lean muscles and supporting your body’s proper alignment.2
This focus on building a stronger core and deep breathing gives rise to a lot of potential long-term benefits. Read on to learn more about the ways turning to Pilates for your regular exercise may make your daily life better.
The Amazing Potential Benefits Of Pilates
Whether you consider Pilates simply a mindful movement practice or rely on it to achieve peak athletic performance, Pilates’ many well-studied physical and psychological benefits may be able to help you reach your goals.
Pilates Can Help Sculpt Long, Strong Muscles
The series of movements you do in a typical Pilates class helps build muscular strength — no matter your age. This means being able to do daily activities and movements with more ease and coordination, possibly with less joint discomfort — arguably the biggest benefit of Pilates for those who struggle with physical movement.3
Pilates Helps Develop Core Strength
Such a core-centric discipline is sure to help benefit your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles. More than building a solid set of abs you can show off, Pilates really helps you utilize your core to stabilize your entire body and improve your posture. This may help you move with much more strength and endurance.4
Pilates May Help Support Weight Loss Goals
Pilates is a whole-body workout, and it’s great at toning muscles and supporting posture — two things that may help you show off your weight loss more noticeably. By supplementing your aerobic activity with Pilates and a healthy diet guided by a healthcare professional, you might be able to reach your weight loss goals much faster.5
Pilates May Help Promote Better Energy Levels
Pilates couples its movements with breathing exercises, which may positively impact your lung capacity and blood circulation. These effects help give rise to better energy levels and an invigorated feeling after a session, similar to what you may feel after yoga.6
Pilates May Help Support Stress Reduction
Pilates not only boosts your energy, but it may also help decrease your body’s physical response to stress. A regular Pilates practice may help lower your body’s production of stress hormones, suggesting that trying Pilates as your workout might help contribute to stress relief.7
Not Just Body Beautiful: The Mental Benefits Of Pilates
Pilates affects not just your body but also your brain, which means it may also offer a host of potential mental health benefits.
Pilates Helps Support A Healthy Brain
More than one study has shown that Pilates might help increase blood flow to the brain and strengthen connections made in the brain’s neural networks. This might help to support thought processes, focus, and even memory retention.8
Pilates May Help Boost Motivation
Pilates presents a unique physical challenge that may help to beef up your mental toughness. Research suggests that people who do Pilates might be more intrinsically motivated compared to do those who don’t.9
Pilates May Help Support Your Mood
Those who do Pilates may experience a decrease in negative symptoms usually associated with anxiety or other mood disorders. It’s certainly worth looking into as a supplementary part of a holistic plan for overall health.10
What Are The Types of Pilates You Can Do?
While the core beliefs and the benefits are similar, there are many different ways you can practice Pilates. If you’re eager to delve deep into the practice, here are some of the forms you can try.
- Mat Pilates: Mat exercises don’t require additional equipment, and they’re based faithfully on Joseph Pilates’ original training regimen.
- Reformer Pilates: This involves similar movements as mat classes, but it uses a large apparatus with a moving platform called a reformer.
- Clinical Pilates: This type of pilates uses more contemporary Pilates movements coupled with a therapeutic approach to help stabilize muscles.11
Tips Before Heading Into Your First Pilates Class
If you’re a little apprehensive about starting a new exercise, don’t be. Even the most seasoned Pilates practitioner was once a beginner. Here are some things to remember to help you get the most out of your Pilates workout.
- Expect some muscle soreness afterward. You’ll be stimulating major muscle groups (and some muscles you didn’t even know you had), so hydrate and stretch as much as you can.
- Wearing form-fitting clothing is better, so you don’t have to worry about loose fabric getting caught on your gear. You’ll also see your body lines more accurately.
- Communicate with your instructor, because much of the lingo and movement may be new to you. Let them know if something hurts, or if you’re not comfortable with a position.12
Find A Class And Start Your Pilates Practice
The potential benefits you’ll gain from a dedicated and disciplined Pilates regimen will surely keep you hooked — all you have to do is try.