Pilates is a form of exercise, developed by Joseph Pilates, a self-defense and fitness instructor from Monchengladbach, Germany. He developed Pilates in the attempts to come up with an effective form of conditioning which will not make one prone to injury. Pilates aims at balanced development of the body through promoting core strength, flexibility, and awareness in order to support efficient, graceful movement. This is done with the help of some special Pilates machines as well.

Unlike some forms of exercise, Pilates does not over-develop some parts of the body and neglect others. While Pilates training focuses on core strength, the body is trained as a whole . One can attest to being stronger and having better muscle tone, and clarity of mind, upon doing Pilates. Pilates is also popular in rehab scenarios, as well as with athletes who find that Pilates is a great foundation for any kind of movement they do.

When it comes to Pilates, most women either are die-hard enthusiasts or have never stepped foot in a Pilates studio. Many types of people, at many levels of fitness, who have begun doing Pilates exercises say they’ve seen improvements in range of motion, flexibility, circulation, posture, and abdominal strength — and decreases in back, neck and joint pain. Tons of research on the benefits of Pilates would suggest you switch camps.

Is Pilates for everyone?

If you have a low fitness level, are older than age 40, haven’t exercised for some time or have a few health problems, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Similarly, women who are pregnant should check with their health care providers before starting Pilates. Pilates can be adapted to provide a gentle strength training and stability program or a challenging workout for seasoned athletes.

People who have high blood pressure, blood clotting problems, osteoporosis, and herniated disk cases may not be suitable for this type of workout.

It is always essential to be under the supervision of a certified instructor since it is necessary to execute the form and posture upon doing these workouts, properly.

These are some of the major benefits one can get from Pilates:

It’s Ah-Mazing for Your Abs

Pilates hits your core (or, in Pilates speak, your “powerhouse”) unlike any other workout. The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles we rely on to support a strong, supple back, good posture, and efficient movement patterns. When the core is strong, the whole frame of the body is supported. This means the neck and shoulders can relax, and the rest of the muscles and joints are freed to do their jobs — and not more. A nice side benefit is that the core training promotes the flat abs that we all covet.

Research has shown that after completing 36 weeks of Pilates training, women have been able to strengthen their abdominal muscles or the rectus abdominis by 12 percent, along with shapelier obliques.

Celebrities such as Kate Hudson, Madonna, Molly Sims, and Cameron Diaz have looked to Pilates as their staple workout for superior body shaping and strength. Most of these celebrities, also manage to get back their bodies even post-labor, through the help of Pilates workouts.

It Provides Rehab-worthy Relief from Back Pain and Improve Posture

One recent study found that Pilates is just as effective at reducing lower-back pain in chronic sufferers as traditional physical-therapy strengthening exercises.

Those with chronic lower back pain or who have mild scoliosis, who practiced Pilates for just four weeks experienced more relief than those who visited a physician and other specialists.What’s more, their pain stayed away for a full year post-Pilates. Researchers believe that by stabilizing the core’s lumbar-pelvic (lower-back) region, Pilates is able to reduce lower back pain, while alignment and posture improves as well. When the core is strengthened, the shoulders, along with the rest of the body is able to relax.

It’s got no pressure on your knees and joints

Pilates’ slow and controlled movements puts minimal impact on your joints. In comparison to running and other high impact exercises, Pilates is joint friendly. Joint pain and Pilates go hand in hand because one of the biggest benefits of the
exercise is the ability for it to strengthen muscles and increase joint flexibility. If you have joint pain, you probably think you can’t exercise because it would cause further injury or cause you to feel more pain during and after the exercise. That is not the case with Pilates’ low impact and low intensity workouts.

The movements are easy on the joints, making it possible for people of all ages with or without pain or fitness level to participate in the workouts. The importance of a mind to body connection is of great emphasis in Pilates. You will learn how you can teach your mind to control your body’s movements. This will help you increase flexibility, strength, and balance.

It Encourages You to Focus

Pilates urges you to focus your breath, your body, and how both move together. It takes a lot of concentration to focus. Each movement is performed with total attention. When the movements are done in the most technical and proper way, the body and mind unite are able to get the most benefit possible from each exercise.

It Makes Sex Better

Some Pilates exercises such as ‘lifting your pelvic floor” do mimic action similar to that of Kegel exercises. Pilates moves like those strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to up your pleasure in the bedroom. Pilates teachers have attested to some students having better sex. Fitness instructors can also attest to the fact that Pilates can keep mothers relaxed and in a stronger physical state during pregnancy. This is mainly due to the fact that the pelvic floor muscles are strengthened during the workouts. When this area of the body is isolated, mother duties like pushing a baby out during labor become much easier due to added strength of the pelvic muscles.

It Improves Your Sports Performance

Pilates also works to balance the body and develop muscular symmetry. Athletes who play a racquet sport such as tennis or golf, or who are recreational bowlers, tend to have muscle imbalances due to the one-sided nature of the sport they engage in. The focus of Pilates on postural alignment, helps with these
imbalances as they work to release the overworked tight muscles, and strengthen the weaker ones with asymmetrical exercise. Balancing the body helps to prevent injuries that might otherwise occur when stress is placed on an unstable area of the body.

“When you start focusing on your core, you realize that all of your muscles are connected through your core. Try doing lunges without your abdominals. You’ll crumble over,” says Zindel, who has trained everyday athletes and professional ones including Chicago Bulls player Joakim Noah. “With a stronger core, you can run faster, your yoga is on point, and overall, the rest of your workouts improve,” she says. Plus, by working in small groups or one-on-one with a Pilates instructor, you can learn moves that mimic and improve performance in your sport of choice.

It Makes You More Flexible

A lot of people say that they cannot do Pilates because they aren’t flexible. It should actually be that they should do Pilates in order to be able to increase flexibility and also build strength. More conventional or traditional workouts are weight bearing and tend to build short, bulky muscles. Pilates elongates and strengthens, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility. A body with balanced strength and flexibility is less likely to be injured. In one Brazilian study, when young women (without any prior Pilates experience) performed 20 Pilates sessions, they became 19.1 percent more flexible. When you’re tight, you shorten your muscle and limit your body’s range of motion, she says. At best, that can hurt your exercise performance. At worst, it can cause injury.

It Boosts Your Brainpower

Joseph Pilates called his workout method “the thinking man’s exercise.” It could very well be. When Chinese researchers measured changes in women’s brain activity after 10 weeks of Pilates training, they found an increase in the brain’s alpha peak power, which is related to neural network activity, memory performance, and other cognitive functions. Researchers believe Pilates may even hold potential as a treatment option for people with brain-degenerative diseases and cognitive dysfunctions. By emphasizing concentration of breathing with movement, the exercise not only builds awareness of the body but also promotes clarity of the mind.

Creates Strength Without Bulk

Long, lean muscles are the trademark look of a Pilates body. Bulk isn’t really seen because the movements shape the muscles through elongation and stretching the muscles. These are toned muscles that work perfectly with the body and the fitness needs of a person as they move through life. Pilates is also a resistance exercise and could certainly be used as a compliment to weight lifting, or any other exercise for that matter. Many individuals who incorporate Pilates in their workouts do both Pilates and free weights.

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