What is Pilates & What is it good for?
Lots of athletes, whether professional or amateur, are unsure about what Pilates actually is and what its benefits are. This practice, which became popular fairly recently, focuses on posture, flexibility and strengthening muscles which support our bodies whilst we exercise. So, if you’ve been wondering what Pilates is, look no further!
What is Pilates & what are the benefits?
Pilates consists of a series of controlled movements mainly focused on the abdomen, hips and back. So, then you may be wondering what it’s good for. It engages the body and mind and can even improve your physical fitness and your body awareness, which helps to prevent injuries.
Doing Pilates can also help you stay calm, maintain focus and concentration and work on your breathing. The good news is that Pilates is great for boosting your overall wellbeing!
If you’re very much into HIIT, circuit training and strength training, but a bit less into Pilates, you might wonder what kind of workout it is. This exercise focuses mainly on the core, in other words, the muscles in the abdomen, back, pelvis and hips, all responsible for keeping the body balanced. And this is pretty cool.
Although it’s low impact, don’t let that deceive you! Pilates is focused on strength and, if you stick to it, it can help you build muscle definition and balance out your training regimen! Convinced yet?
Things you need to know about Pilates
Curious about where Pilates came from? It was invented in Germany about 100 years ago and mainly became popular because it focuses on individual needs. It’s low impact, which means absolutely anyone can do it.
According to a study published by researchers at Bastyr University in the United States, Pilates involves a combination of approximately 50 simple, repetitive exercises that focus on building muscle strength. It can be done with equipment or just by using your own bodyweight.
4 benefits of doing Pilates
So, now that we have piqued your interest, let’s dig deeper into the details. Better posture, flexibility and balance are just a few of the benefits of Pilates, a practice that strengthens the core muscles and helps prevent injuries. Let’s go into detail about what Pilates does:
1. It improves your core strength
Core training is something you should never neglect. That’s because the core muscles are what hold up your whole body: they stabilise your spine, your pelvis and the kinematic chain, the links and joints that allow you to move.
As an exercise that’s all about the stabilisation of your core muscles, abdomen and glutes, your core is put to work throughout the whole workout!
2. It helps with your posture
To do the exercises properly you need to make sure your spine is properly aligned. This posture alignment is one of the key focus points of the exercise. When we focus on correct posture and joint alignment, in turn, we strengthen the muscles in the spine.
According to the NHS, Pilates is said to help posture and contribute to good spine health, but that’s not all! You’ll also see improvements in your strength, balance, flexibility and stamina. Genius, isn’t it?
3. It can improve balance
Improved balance is another well-known benefit of Pilates. The NHS also points out that a regular Pilates practice can help improve muscle tone, balance and joint mobility.
This is because when you do these exercises, you have to coordinate various muscle groups at the same time. For example, some positions can be done on just one leg or with the support of an unstable surface.
For amateur or elite athletes, including dancers, Pilates can mean increased stability and strength, not to mention reduced risk of injury. Since injury can sideline the progress of even the most advanced athletes, it could be a good option to look for alternatives to your normal training for strengthening your body and improving your balance. After all, we know that no one wants to be taken out of the game due to an injury.
4. It increases your flexibility
How’s your flexibility? Subpar? Contortionist level? Rather not talk about it? We get it, everyone’s flexibility is at a different level. However, if you have problems touching your toes or sitting cross legged, then maybe it is something you should consider focusing on in your training regimen.
During the practice you’re continually stretching your body, in exercises that can be static or dynamic. As you stretch out your muscles and other parts of your body, your range of movement will naturally improve over time.
As Pilates also strengthens your core, you become more stable, and your muscles become more flexible and elastic. These are all benefits that support and prime your body for other, more intense workouts.
Pilates vs yoga: what's the difference?
Just like Pilates, yoga has become fashionable over the last few decades. And for good reason. Both can have countless benefits for both physical and mental health. But how do you decide which one’s for you?
Yoga has its origins in India and is a way of managing stress and anxiety as well as potentially helping to fight depression and insomnia. It also keeps you fit, strong and flexible. Its postures are performed by combining movement with your breath.
The main difference between Pilates and yoga is that Pilates is completely focused on the physical aspects. However yoga, created by ancient Indian sages, places more emphasis on relaxation, meditation and spirituality.
So, the choice can be made based on your personal preferences. Pilates involving equipment is normally done in studios, whilst floor Pilates might be part of a gym package, or can be done at home. And if you still can’t decide, why not do both? They both have their benefits!
How to decide whether Pilates is right for you
Anyone can do Pilates. But we know that’s not enough to motivate you to sign up at a Pilates studio right now.
If you’re not sure if Pilates is for you, think about whether you need to work on your core strength, flexibility, balance, strength and posture. Then, the best thing to do is give it a try. Who knows, you might end up falling in love with it and making Pilates a permanent part of your exercise routine.
Written by: Green Park Content
Any medical advice and views expressed are those of the author; readers should obtain medical advice.
 World Health Organization. Classes and Descriptions. Available at: https://www.who.int/formerstaff/classes_and_descriptions.pdf
 Krawczky, Bruna & Mainenti, Míriam & Pacheco, Antonio. (2016). The impact of Pilates exercises on the postural alignment of healthy adults. Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte. 22. 485-490. 10.1590/1517-869220162206153957. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312061661_The_impact_of_pilates_exercises_on_the_postural_alignment_of_healthy_adults
 Mayo Clinic. Pilates for beginners. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/pilates-for-beginners/art-20047673
 National Health Service. A Guide to Pilates. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/guide-to-pilates/
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