If you’re someone who enjoys taking classes at the gym or someone who’s just interested in physical fitness, you’ve probably heard all kinds of good things about pilates. It seems like nearly everyone who tries it has something positive to say. But what is it about pilates that makes it so popular? And if you haven’t tried it, is it a form of exercise that might be a good fit for you? Here are a few of the reasons why you might consider giving pilates a shot.
1. It’s a great ab workout
If you’re looking for a form of exercise that will work your core, pilates is a great choice. It’s an excellent workout for your abs. In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, women who engaged in 36 weeks of pilates strengthened the muscle that gives you a six-pack significantly. The study also showed that pilates is effective at reducing imbalances between the core muscles on your right and left sides. So if you’re like a lot of us and you find crunches to be boring, pilates could be a better option – and likely even more effective.
2. It’s good for your back
With so many of us spending hours each day hunched over our computers, unfortunately, back pain is common. But luckily, pilates can help. A study in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy found that a group of healthy adults with chronic lower back pain experienced a larger drop in functional disability and pain intensity after four weeks of pilates than the control group, which underwent four weeks of typical treatment with physicians and other specialists. Moreover, the pilates group still reported less pain 12 months later in a follow-up. This might be the case because strengthening the core muscles is good for the back.
3. It’s low-impact
Unlike, say, jogging, there’s no impact when it comes to pilates. So if you’re someone who doesn’t like exercises with a greater impact (some people experience joint pain or other forms of soreness after higher impact activities) pilates may be for you. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep in mind that you are moving your joints under tension during a pilates workout, so those with arthritis, fibromyalgia or other orthopedic conditions should consult their physician or a medical professional before taking a pilates class.
4. It might improve body awareness
Though this has not been studied scientifically, many people anecdotally report an increase in body awareness after practicing pilates for a period of time. Because so many of us spend long hours each day at work, and little time moving our bodies, it can be easy to lose touch with how our bodies feel. But many forms of exercise are likely to have the potential to help us get in touch with our bodies again, and pilates is no exception. According to many participants, yoga is another activity that can help to improve body awareness.
5. It’s group exercise
Pilates is most often done in a group setting at a gym — though you can do it at home and there are instructional videos available online and for purchase in DVD format. For a lot of us, this can make it easier to stick with an exercise routine. If we have a class to go to where other people will be in attendance, and we’ve paid for it, pilates feels more like a formal appointment. We’re probably less likely to skip it than we might be if we’re just working out on our own. Also, for many people, exercising in groups can be more fun, as you can draw from the energy of those around you. And, having an instructor present means there’s someone there who can make sure your form is correct.
6. It’s adaptable to your fitness level
Pilates isn’t something you have to be a seasoned athlete to take part in. You can adapt it to your level of fitness. And, as you continue to build strength, you can engage in increasingly challenging workouts. Due to the popularity of pilates, you’re likely to be able to find classes designed for participants of various fitness levels.
7. It’s for everyone
Pilates is a great choice for women due to its targeting of core and pelvic muscles, which might be particularly beneficial in terms of supporting reproductive and urinary function for women (though more scientific study is needed on this). However, the idea that it’s “only” or primarily for women is a misperception. Pilates is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to strengthen their core and men will see many benefits as well.
8. It may help you to be present
Again, more scientific study is needed here, but many participants report that pilates helps them feel more focused or present in the moment. Because pilates exercises require a certain amount of precision, it’s more difficult to just zone out than it may be with other, more repetitive forms of exercise. Indeed, this mind-body component is what appeals to many people about pilates.
9. It may help you reduce stress
Anecdotally, many people say that pilates helps them to feel less stressed. It makes sense that this would be the case, as most forms of exercise are linked to stress reduction. Pilates, in particular, is said to have a mind-body aspect that some believe may be especially effective at combatting stress.
As we can see, pilates has a number of benefits and can be a great workout option. It is important to note that pilates may not be the best choice if your primary goal is weight loss. Because pilates doesn’t elevate your heart rate to the levels of an aerobic workout, it doesn’t burn as many calories as other forms of exercise. However, it can be a great complement to your regular workout routine, or it can be your primary form of exercise if your goal isn’t weight loss.
It’s also worth mentioning that pilates may not be recommended for those with unstable blood pressure, severe osteoporosis, a herniated disk or a risk of blood clots. Nonetheless, pilates is a great form of exercise that many people enjoy. Give it a try!
— Sarah Cooke