Pilates Benefits: Everything Beginners Should Know

Are you bored with monotonous gym workout? If yes, you should try some other form of exercise to keep yourself. One such workout is Pilates, the benefits of which have helped maintain a well-toned body. If you are a beginner to pilates, here’s everything you need to know about the fitness system.

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What is Pilates?

Pilates was first introduced in the year 1920 by American physical trainer Joseph Pilates. He first used this form of exercise on injured athletes and dancers to help them return to exercise and maintain their fitness. Callisthenics, yoga and ballet inspire the pilates method. Pilates exercises bring all major muscles of the body in a balanced form. This form of training helps in the development of flexibility, strength, balance and body awareness.

The best part of pilates is that you don’t have to sweat it out until you are exhausted. All that you need is concentration. Yoga mat and pilates equipment are used for exercise. In Pilates, the training program is designed according to the person’s requirement.

Pilates workout is suitable for everyone, be it a beginner or an expert, anyone can perform this type of workout. A typical pilates training includes some exercises and stretches. The focus should be on breathing and abdominal muscle control. You can observe improvement in your posture after 10-20 sessions.

Pilates Equipment
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Pilates Equipment

Pilates does not usually require any equipment other than a floor mat. There are Pilates machines available called reformers. It is an equipment which provides added resistance in the workout.

If you do Pilates at home follow a Pilates DVD workout program for correct posture, alignment and technique. The guide will help you understand the movements better. If you are attending a Pilate’s class, your trainer will help you correct your posture.

Further you can choose group or even a private Pilate class to help master the technique. A typical Pilate’s class is 45 mins long.

Mental and Physical Benefits of Pilates

The benefits of Pilates are not only physical, but mental. “The Reformer gives the body more input and feedback that the nervous and neurological systems need to wake up and become active,” says Cari Riis Stemmler, owner and master teacher at Paragon Pilates & Physical Therapy in Edina, Minn.

“Pilates, whether on the mat or on a piece of equipment, requires precision and focus,” she says. “Pilates requires you to move in intricate ways, which helps with brain activity and mental acuity. We joke all the time that you’re getting smarter when you do Pilates, because you’re learning new things. It refreshes you mentally.”

Other benefits from a regular Pilates practice include arm and leg strength, balanced muscle development, injury prevention and “increased energy and joy for your activities,” Riis Stemmler says. Runners, golfers, swimmers, runners, dancers and horseback riders all benefit from Pilates — so do people who aren’t as fit, or who come to Pilates with injuries or a chronic disease.

“The over-50 demographic is such a diverse group in the twenty first century, from the very fit to the post-surgical, from the sedentary to those with a condition like Parkinson’s,” Riis Stemmler says. “They also come to us with ankle sprains, meniscus tears and joint-related injuries.”

An acute injury should always be treated by a physician, then followed up with physical therapy. After that, Pilates can help with further rehabilitation and strength building.

“A well-trained, certified and experienced teacher will work with a client on the whole body,” Riis Stemmler adds. “With any injury or condition, the body adapts and creates compensatory patterns. As you’re healing, a good teacher will address the whole body and those compensatory patterns so the body is balanced as part of your recovery.”

Pilates Sculpt The Body
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How Does Pilates Sculpt The Body?

“Pilates is a complete workout for both the body and mind,” says King. “It is an exercise system that works on the stabilising muscles to ensure the most optimal posture.”

“There is a keen focus on core (internal stomach muscles and obliques) as well as lengthening the muscles throughout the body. It is performed with and without equipment and is suitable for all ages. You have no idea how much you actually need Pilates until you start.”

One 2009 study found that a semester of pilates training on college-age individuals correlated with improvements on perceived self-efficacy and sleep quality, as well as significant improvements on mood. A following study by the same group of researchers, this time focused on whether mindfulness increased through participation in pilates, was published in 2013. Total mindfulness scores increased overall for the group of participants enrolled into a 15-week long pilates exercise group, who were measured during the beginning, middle, and end of the semester for mindfulness, perceived self-efficacy, mood, stress, and sleep quality. Mindfulness scores notably didn’t increase in the other exercise control group, suggesting that practicing pilates could be associated with increases in mindfulness that may account for changes in mood and perceived stress.

The research seems promising, considering that one of the unique aspects about pilates is its emphasis on mental work alongside physicality. Centering, aka, the understanding that all movements originate in one’s core, is a key component of the exercise. “Like yoga, it’s about breathing and focus and being mindful of your body’s movements,” Ann Gibson, an associate professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico, told TIME.

With trendy new fitness studios popping up what feels like every week, pilates is more accessible than ever. Considering the potential mental and physical benefits of the practice, if you’re on the fence about taking a class, now seems like as good a time as ever to try the exercise out for yourself.

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