6 reasons to do Pilates and what results you can expect

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If you've been contemplating starting Pilates then here's exactly why you should.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is defined as a system of exercises using special apparatuses, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, posture and enhance mental awareness. Pilates is one of those workouts that everyone knows about, but few people actually know what it is or what it involves.

There are different types and styles of Pilates. Mat, reformer and studio Pilates are the main types of classes you will come across and carry their own specific benefits. However, each of these types of classes emphasise a low-impact form of exercise that promotes posture, flexibility, mobility, muscular strength and proper pattern movements.

As well as types of classes, there are different styles of Pilates, which include:

  • Classical Pilates which pays homage to Joseph Pilates and stays as close to his original repertoire as possible.
  • Contemporary Pilates typically combines classical exercises with modern learning.
  • Clinical Pilates is used as a tool to treat specific issues or injuries.

Everyone will have different results depending on their individual bodies and what their goals are, but you can work with your instructor to achieve these goals in the most efficient way possible. Below I've listed the six main benefits you can achieve through Pilates.

Top 6 benefits of Pilates

1. Muscular strength

Pilates is not just for women! I teach just as many men as I do women, because Pilates is a fantastic way to access and isolate muscles that wouldn't normally be worked in a gym setting. It places importance on the smaller muscles that are needed to support the proper movement patterns of the larger muscle groups.

For beginners, all forms of Pilates are a fantastic way to familiarise oneself with different exercises and gradually introduce load. While Pilates shouldn't replace a weights-based strength routine, it's a fantastic way of adding some cross-training (an exercise regimen that uses several modes of training to achieve a desired result) into your regular exercise schedule.

2. Body awareness and balance

A lot of Pilates exercises require a high level of concentration to complete complex movements. This adds a coordination element that some other forms of exercise don't require as much. It allows the person doing the exercises to create a "mind-body connection" that builds a link between the mind and movement.

Pilates is also built on the idea that there are many ways to support getting better at a certain action. For example, if you are wanting to work on your balance and coordination for a big trail run coming up, there are plenty of balance and core strengthening exercises that can mimic certain movements that you'll be doing, which will support you in achieving your goal.

3. Flexibility and mobility

There's a reason why the original Pilates method was created with and for dancers. You don't have to already be flexible to reap the benefits of a class.

Pilates uses static holds and dynamic stretching to take joints through their full range of movement. There is a heavy focus on working muscle groups evenly, to avoid any muscular imbalances. This helps clients become more flexible and reduce their risk of injury.

4. Core strength

This is the most common reason why I've seen people show up to their local Pilates studio – they want to fix their "weak" or "inactive" core. Pilates is about creating an even stronger core (which is comprised of the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, pelvic floor, and sometimes hips/glutes depending on who you ask) that can help support daily movements and reduce generic aches and pains like chronic lower back pain.

A large majority of Pilates exercises will utilise all layers of the abdominal muscles, if not the entire core to execute an exercise. That, coupled with precise form, will guarantee that you're getting a fantastic workout for your midsection. It's from that strong core that you will get the feeling of standing taller, breathing easier and having a more relaxed upper body.

5. Injury prevention

Pilates works on creating proper and effective movement patterns that allow you to complete a task safely and efficiently. This helps you identify where your body is in space and what it is doing, or if there are any movements that need to be re-learned in an appropriate way. It addresses any muscular imbalances with either mobility or strength training, which can help prevent injuries before they happen.

6. General sense of wellbeing and community

A Pilates class is a safe space to explore movement and build community. I feel like we've all realised how important social interactions are over the past few months. The biopsychosocial model looks at the interconnection between biology, psychology and socio-environmental factors. The model has proven that in a fitness (Pilates) setting, clients need more than just a cut-and-dry plan to become healthier and happier humans. We crave social interactions, reassurance and a healthy balance between our body, mind and the world around us. Having a balance may lead to more pain-free and less stressful lives.

To put it simply...

Pilates is a fantastic form of exercise that is meant for anybody, any gender, any age and any capability. In my opinion, it's one of the best workouts that blends together mindfulness and movement, while still focusing on anatomy-based science and current research. If you want to start your practice but are unsure of where to begin, start by consulting your GP and making sure you're cleared to exercise, then research studios in your area and sign up for a trial class. Give it more than one class (it takes a second to learn the ropes) but don't give up! I promise you'll feel the benefits in both your body and mind.

Written by Molly Gay

Molly is a Pilates and group fitness instructor in Sydney, Australia. She believes that fitness should be fun, challenging and motivating. Health is more than just exercise, so you'll hear her talk about the mind-body integration and why it's so important to living a happy and healthy life.

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