Amazing Benefits of Pilates Exercises
No Other Exercise Comes Close To the Benefits of Pilates
Why Pilates Is So Different
Pilates is now one of the most popular fitness methods worldwide. Though many, including the medical community recognize its health benefits, it’s surprising how few people fully understand just how different Pilates exercises are.
You are about to discover why Joseph Pilates is the Einstein of fitness, and why no other exercise method gives you more benefits, setting Pilates completely apart from all other fitness programs.
Quick Look At the Top 10 Pilates Benefits
- There are three muscle groups in the center of the body that are virtually ignored by every other exercise method – inner abs, inner obliques, and the iliopsoas. Pilates works these muscles better than any other method.
- When these and other muscles in the ‘core’ are strengthened, everything changes, improving posture, balance, strength, mobility, and athletic performance.
- Pilates exercises are so effective for improving athletic performance that nearly every elite athlete includes them in their conditioning program.
- Most back problems disappear by strengthening core muscles. This idea which was first expressed by Joseph Pilates has been confirmed by research and is a key principle in physical therapy.
- Paying attention to your movement rather than ignoring it with music or TV, trains the body and the mind. This body/mind integration is a hallmark of the Pilates method.
- Pilates make you feel energized rather than exhausted due in part to an emphasis on breathing.
- Exercising with fluid and controlled movement, central to Pilates, reduces joint damage and pain.
- Dynamic stretching found in Pilates is more effective, according to research, than any other type of stretching.
- Pilates primarily involves eccentric contraction which is more beneficial than other muscle building technique. Let’s look at these benefits more closely.
Unique Strength Training
Pilates uses the word ‘center’ to describe all the muscle groups surrounding our mid section – inner and outer abs, inner and outer obliques, lower back muscles, the glutes, and the iliopsoas. Our outer abs and obliques are generally well developed and bulky. By strengthening less developed muscles, we no longer rely so much on bulkier ones. In this way, when all our muscles work together we are much stronger, leaner, and lighter. Best of all, most back problems disappear!
Traditional strength training builds short and bulky muscles, and concentrates on certain muscles while neglecting others. Imbalanced and bulky muscle development is a recipe for injury, particularly chronic back pain. Pilates strengthens the entire body, even the ankles, wrists, and neck.
The prevalence of eccentric contraction in Pilates has important benefits such as leaner and longer muscle tissue which is equally as strong but less susceptible to injury. By developing muscle groups that we rarely pay any attention to, we decrease our reliance upon fewer and bulkier muscle groups such as the outer abs and obliques. The result is a lighter, leaner, and stronger body, and improved sports performance, particularly in those activities that rely upon core strength such as golf, running, dance, skiing, and equestrian sports, to name a few.
A lighter, leaner, and more balanced body results in one of the best benefits of all – less injury. This is why professional athletes now include Pilates in their training programs. And for the non-athlete, everyday movement becomes easier, such as walking, standing, lifting, and sitting. And for the older adult comes a longevity benefit – less falls – the single greatest cause of mortality among the elderly.
Let me highlight the next Pilates benefit with a quick story. I like many kinds of exercise. As I get older I notice the wear and tear from exercise, particularly on my knees and lower back. Thus, I foresee a time in the not too distant future when I won’t (or can’t!) do certain activities anymore, particularly running and hiking.
Not so with Pilates! The controlled and fluid movement central to this method is the safest way to move our joints. That’s not true for so many other exercise activities, such as running and hiking. What kind of exercise will you be doing in your 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and beyond? Pilates may be the only one!
While we’re on the subject of joints, here’s great news for the older body. I’m in my 60’s and whether from a lifetime of athletics or just getting older, I often start the day stiff and ‘feeling my age.’ There is absolutely no better antidote to joint stiffness and pain than exercise. This is particularly exciting news for arthritis sufferers. Recent research shows that strength training is as effective for pain relief as medication. Any strength training exercise is effective, but with Pilates there’s no more damage. Just 30 minutes of Pilates when I’m stiff and I feel young again!
You’ll be surprised by this benefit! You’ll feel more energy and vitality – not less – at the end of a Pilates workout. Contrast this with the exhaustion so typical of other exercise methods. This exhilaration is due to special breathing throughout the Pilates workout. Breathing oxygenates the bloodstream and every cell of the body, and movement stimulates circulation of the nerve and lymph systems. In other words, when it comes to Pilates, the more you exercise, the more energy and wellbeing you feel.
I like a lot of different kinds of exercise, but Pilates is my favorite because it’s complete. What do I mean by “complete”?
Fitness research discovered that we all need three kinds of exercise for our health: strength training, stretching, and cardiovascular conditioning, better known as aerobics. Any one of these alone will not keep you healthy. For instance, if running is all you do for exercise, this is aerobics and your heart and lungs benefit greatly, but aerobics does not build muscle tissue, and by age 30 men and women are naturally losing muscle all over the body. Only strength training restores and builds muscle. And muscle provides a protective layer around all our joints. Without strength training a runner is at great risk for a variety of joint injuries particularly in the knees, back, and shoulders.
Mat exercises allow you to workout anytime and anywhere without equipment or a gym. This is particularly convenient if you travel or if you’re home bound by bad weather or a sick child or a car in the repair shop. I’ve done Pilates in hotels, at the homes of friends and relatives, even in airports, because all I need is a space the length of my body, a soft surface, and 30 minutes! I’m not constrained by gym hours, class schedules, or expensive fees. It’s the ultimate in exercise convenience.
Pilates emphasizes 3-5 repetitions for each exercise, except the first exercise known as “The 100”. At the advanced level you move from one exercise to another – more than 50 – without stopping, for a complete and rigorous workout in only 30 minutes.
One of the most striking differences between Pilates and other exercise is the mind/body connection. This is accomplished by shutting off the music and taking off the earphones, at least in the beginning. Music can be a wonderful support for your workout but only after achieving a certain level of awareness. We also slow down our movement to coordinate it with full breathing, moving precisely and fluidly. We’re paying attention to how the body feels and whether any discomfort is the healthy process of muscle growth and stretching, or the body saying, “Stop! This is harmful!”
This kind of attention is not only the best defense against injury, it’s a brand new relationship with the body. We’re no longer ignoring or fighting the body, but rather engaging in a partnership, listening and responding respectfully, and being rewarded with strength, balance, painless joints, and a healthy back.
The Cardinal Rule in Pilates is ‘If it hurts, don’t do it!’ Our fitness culture encourages us to ignore any body messages that hint of weakness with such common phrases as ‘Work Through the Pain’, ‘Tough It Out’, and ‘No Pain, No Gain’. Pilates challenges us to listen to the body rather than ignore it and become an ally rather than an adversary. It’s as rigorous a workout as you’ll find, but with an entirely different attitude.
I wasn’t sure it would work for my back problem, but I gave it a try and soon discovered the genius of Pilates. Placing my attention on my body taught me ways to move that are safer, more efficient, much stronger, and more balanced than I’d ever felt before. Most importantly, all this attention to the body protects me from injury, because now I avoid movement that doesn’t feel natural.
‘Dynamic stretching’ is a fancy term for stretching while you move. This is different from “static stretching” achieved by holding a position as in yoga. Dynamic is also distinct from ‘ballistic’ stretching or bouncing which is universally discouraged because of the high risk of injury.
Stretching research indicates that dynamic stretching is better in terms of increasing range of motion and reducing joint and muscle pain. There are even indications that dynamic stretching after strength training improves muscle recovery time. Every Pilates exercise involves dynamic stretching.
In conclusion, Pilates delivers more health benefits than any other exercise method. Try it right now for free from one of today’s leading Pilates instructors.