We are sent constant messages throughout our day to day lives, and one of those messages that has increased in prevalence over the last five years is the importance of regular exercise (along with ‘eating clean’). We have always been taught about taking part in physical activity, but never has such a focus been placed on it. And we are listening – consumer spending on UK gym membership increased by 44% between 2014-2015, and there has been a steady increase in the number of adults taking part in events such as Park Run and organised cycling and open water swimming.
Pilates is an exercise system that concentrates on conditioning your entire body. It was developed by a German physical trainer named Joseph Pilates who was inspired by the Ancient Greek ideal of perfectly balancing one’s mind, body and soul.
Pilates is renowned to improve core strength and flexibility but has a host of other less well-known health benefits too. Here’s a list of a few of the more surprising ways it can improve your body and enhance your general health.
It Focuses the Mind
The benefits of Pilates go beyond physical improvement; it can also significantly improve your mental wellbeing.
Pilates boosts endorphins and helps to control mood fluctuations. It also incorporates an element of mindfulness to help you to stay calm, reduce stress and decrease negative thoughts. Something as simple as concentrating on your breathing while practicing Pilates can harmonise your body and mind and reduce levels of stress and anxiety.
Learning to focus during a Pilates session will clear your mind of distractions and create an overall sense of calm. Over time, this feeling of serenity can be tapped into outside of Pilates sessions and will result in a more balanced mental equilibrium.
It Can Prevent Injury
Pilates can also be helpful in preventing injuries. As it focuses on making the body more flexible and increasing muscle tone, this means you are less likely to injure yourself while going about your daily business or playing sports.
Pilates is a low impact exercise meaning it will not put strain on your joints. This makes it a great exercise choice for people who have suffered a previous injury or suffer from inflamed joints caused by conditions like arthritis. Pilates can gradually build up strength in joints without risking further injury through over exertion.
Pilates also places a strong emphasis on whole body awareness which means you will be hyper sensitive to pain and more attuned to recognising when an exercise is jarring on your body.
It Improves Posture
Pilates can significantly improve your posture. As many of us have office jobs and spend our days sitting at a desk, maintaining a good posture is vital to avoid damage. If you have a bad posture, you will put additional strain on certain muscles while they work to compensate those not being used. Overtime, the muscles which have been strained are weakened, and this will likely result in injury.
Pilates is focused on achieving good body alignment. This means aligning your torso with your shoulders, pelvis, legs and neck. If your core muscles are strong, you are more likely to stand and sit up straight and tension can be relieved from the bodies’ extremities. As many lower back problems are caused by poor posture, Pilates can provide back pain relief by focusing on strengthening the spine and tightening the lumbar muscles. Many Physiotherapists will encourage patients to practice Pilates alongside regular physio sessions as part of a recovery plan.
It Increases Bone Density
Pilates can improve bone density. When the muscles are stretched, this puts resistance on the bones which causes them to fortify. Exercise is proven to help in maintaining bone strength and can reduce the risk of patients developing devastating conditions like osteoporosis later in life.
Pilates is known as a ‘weight-bearing exercise’ meaning it is an activity that works the body against the force of gravity. When people undertake regular weight-baring exercise, their bones will adapt to the impact of muscle weight and regenerate cells to become more robust.
It can Shift those Last 5 Pounds
Pilates is also a great way to stay in shape. A single 30-minute session can cause you to burn up to 300 calories. It also increases blood flow and gives your digestion a kick-start, all important factors in losing weight.
If you are a regular high-intensity cardio devotee, supplementing your exercise routine with regular sessions of Pilates can help you out if you have hit a progress plateau. By repeating the same exercises again and again the body eventually adjusts, and weight loss can stall. Switching up your exercise routine and working on different muscle groups can cause you to break through the plateau and keep you feeling fit and motivated.
Pilates is a great ‘all-rounder’ exercise as it incorporates many different areas of the body. Total Health Clinics run weekly Pilates classes in their Peterborough clinic at 9am on a Saturday morning.