Maybe you’ve heard of Pilates and wonder what it’s all about? Or maybe you haven’t, and are simply looking for the right exercise class to take up? I unashamedly simply love Pilates! And here are my top ten reasons why…
1. You will become stronger
Pilates is a wonderful way to gently increase strength throughout the whole body. And as you become stronger, you will become more confident and feel fitter.
2. You will become more flexible
Flexibility is not only essential for many sports, but will also dramatically reduce your risk of injury in daily life. As we age, our muscles naturally shorten and we become less flexible. But there is good news – it is possible to stop and even reverse this decline with regular stretching exercises, and Pilates is the perfect way of doing so.
3. Your posture will improve
Modern life takes its toll on the body, and especially the spine, as we stoop over our mobile phones and slouch in our office chairs. Many people therefore develop a hunched posture as they get older, which can lead to back problems. Pilates is the form of exercise designed specifically to address postural imbalances by selectively strengthening and stretching the muscles, helping you to put everything back in alignment.
4. Pilates can help you lose weight
Yes that is correct – Pilates can indeed help you lose weight! Whilst low to medium intensity aerobic exercise is regularly prescribed for ‘fat-burning’, Pilates participants are often surprised by just how warm they get in classes, and getting warm means that you are effectively burning those calories! Next, Pilates strengthens and tones our muscles. ‘Muscle tone’ is simply the residual tension in our muscles when they are not actively working. And – the harder a muscle is working when at rest – the more calories you are burning, yes, even when at rest! Perhaps most importantly though, the most effective form of exercise for losing weight is the one we keep on doing, and don’t give up after a few weeks. And Pilates is just so enjoyable that people really do want to keep coming back. We need motivation to lose weight, and there is no better motivation than an exercise class that makes us feel better and better about ourselves.
5. You will reduce the risk of injury
You may have heard the buzz words ‘core strength’ used in the context of Pilates. “Engage the core!” But this is much more than just spin. Core strength – strength in the central muscles of the body – is something that benefits us in many ways, especially in supporting the spine. There are few people above a certain age that have not hurt their back at some point, and this can range from a minor nuisance to totally debilitating. Our core muscles support the spine and hold everything in place, and strengthening them in an appropriate manner can dramatically reduce the risk of back injury. Furthermore, as many back problems are caused by muscle imbalances or lack of flexibility, Pilates can have fantastic results when performed for remedial purposes as a treatment for back problems. Strengthening the core can also reduce the risk of falls, helping us to further reduce the risk of injury, as well as to build confidence. And if we do ever slip, the weight bearing nature of Pilates is a very effective means of combating fragile bones caused by osteoporosis, meaning that there is less chance of breaking something.
6. Pilates is easy to get into
Pilates is one of the best forms of exercise for all levels of fitness, as it can be performed at a very wide range of intensities, from extremely gentle for beginners, to very difficult for those more experienced. For this reason it is a very easy form of exercise to get into initially, safe in the knowledge that as your fitness improves, you can move on to more challenging work if you wish to. Experienced Pilates instructors can also take a wide range of abilities in their classes, as they can provide a range of progressions for each exercise, enabling beginners and the more advanced to work side by side. Pilates is for women and men, older and younger people, and people of all abilities. Pilates is for everyone!
7. Your mental health will improve
Pilates is an ideal activity to promote a general feeling of well-being, as there is nothing better than going to a class that makes you feel good about yourself. Pilates achieves this in several ways: firstly because it is the sort of class that makes you think ‘hey – I can do this!’ Secondly, you will quickly progress, becoming more upright, stronger and more able – and this will make you feel fantastic! Thirdly, as Pilates is not a competition but a personal journey, you are never left feeling lacking as one might if they think they have to keep up with others. Fourth, Pilates promotes mindfulness – the art of quietening the mind and being ‘present in the moment’. It does this by encouraging us to concentrate on sometimes quite complex combinations of muscle contractions, and by utilising focused breathing techniques similar to those used in yoga. And finally Pilates is a very social pastime. You will make friends, learn you have much in common, and have a great time!
8. You will be able to do more
As we get older, or if we have had a serious illness or injury, we naturally accept that we can’t do as much as we could when we were younger. But Pilates questions this. Why not? What can we really do if we put our minds to it? With a positive attitude and a real toolkit of exercises at hand to improve our physical function, we can turn back the clock and once again become more able. This might be some sport or activity you would really like to do, or simply just certain everyday tasks. Sure, nothing lasts forever, and Pilates certainly doesn’t peddle false hope, but it does encourage and enable us to be the best we can be, at any stage in our lives.
9. Pilates is safe
Guided by an experienced instructor, Pilates is one of the safest forms of exercise out there, as its progressive nature means that we can all work at levels which are safe and effective for us, even if we have specific health conditions such as spinal problems or osteoporosis. It is no surprise that many doctors and physical therapists now encourage their patients to take up Pilates.
No I haven’t run out of things to say; I could give you dozens more reasons to take up Pilates, and the question marks above are not a typo. Rather, I want to end simply by emphasising that Pilates will become your Pilates. It will become important to you, and it will become personal to you. And over time you will discover and embrace your own reasons for continuing to develop your health and well-being through this wonderful form of exercise.
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