Since the early 20th century, when Joseph Pilates created this physical fitness regimen, pilates has become a popular activity among gym enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. Today, more than 12 million people practice pilates, which is done mostly with a stability ball, a reformer, or one’s own body weight. Described as an art of controlled movements, pilates offers a number of both physical and mental benefits when practiced regularly as an exercise routine.
Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life Samir Becic:
- Improves flexibility. Doing stretches and exercises on the reformer helps elongate your muscles and increase your range of motion. The more frequently you practice pilates, the better your flexibility can be. Consistent stretching over time can help improve range of motion, which can help your body feel more loose and even improve your performance in other workouts.
- Increases muscle strength and tone. Your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body) all remain contracted and engaged during a pilates workout. This constant tension helps keep the core muscles lean and build better endurance and strength.
- Improves breathing. The careful attention to breathing patterns practiced in pilates not only improves breathing patterns during your workouts, but it also improves blood circulation in the body. With proper, deep breathing, blood is better able to deliver oxygen to the appropriate muscles and organs, which can cleanse the body of toxins, provide a fresh, invigorating feeling, and help muscles recover better.
- Improves posture. No matter what your daily activity, whether you’re cooking, brushing your teeth, carrying groceries, pilates makes you more aware of your ability to pull your stomach in and pull your shoulders down for good posture and spinal alignment. There is an attention and focus required in doing the exercises smoothly, a focus that changes your movement awareness even beyond the class session.
- Teaches control both physically and mentally. All exercises are done with control, as the muscles work to lift against gravity and the resistance of the apparatus springs and thereby control the movement of the body and the apparatus. This helps your body be in control of external forces, not external forces controlling your body.
- Promotes body awareness. With pilates, you become more aware of your posture when you sit or stand, as well as everyday movements. This helps you become better able to relate those habits to the aches and pains and injuries you have or have had in the past, so that you can alleviate or even prevent future aches and pains.
- Reinforces strong, mobile joints. Pilates elongates and strengthens your muscles, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility. This means less risk for weak or stiff joints, and it helps ward off arthritis.
- Conditions the whole body. Every part of the body, from head to toe, gets a workout from pilates, and all are equally trained. Your entire musculature is evenly balanced and conditioned, helping you enjoy daily activities and sports with greater ease, better performance and less risk of injury.
- Improves aerobic conditioning. Pilates increases lung capacity and circulation through the deep breathing done during each move and exercise.
- Builds better balance. Practicing pilates on a stability ball or reformer apparatus improves physical coordination and balance and promotes good posture.