Tone Your Muscles, Reduce Stress and Recovery Faster From Injury.

If your gym or fitness center offers Pilates classes, you have undoubtedly overheard folks in the locker room singing the praises of Pilates. Much like yoga students, Pilates students border on the fanatical in support of their exercise program. Just ask any Pilates student how they like the class and you’re likely to hear “It’s awesome”, “I’ve never felt better”, and “I can’t believe I waited this long to start doing Pilates”.

But what are these raving Pilates students really saying? How does Pilates benefit the body, mind and spirit? Does an hour of Pilates movements result in simply an overall feeling of well-being, or are there specific physical and mental benefits that can be attributed to consistent Pilates workouts?

You asked the questions and we’ve answered them. Below is an outline of the health benefits that have been linked to the Pilates fitness method.

How Does Pilates Help Your Body?

Pilates starts by teaching body awareness. This means that more you do the exercises, the more aware you will be of how you hold your body while doing mundane daily chores. You’ll find yourself pulling your shoulders down and back when sitting on the bus, or pulling your abs in while you blow-dry your hair.

Pilates movements are designed to maximize the strength of your core muscles. Think of your body as a tree. The core muscles wrap the trunk to give you a strong foundation, while your arms and legs are the limbs. It’s important to remember that a strong core does not necessarily equate to 6-pack abs. Pilates will add flexibility to your ab muscles, but to make them show, you’ll need to focus on weight loss (more cardio and a healthy low-carb protein based diet).

Athletes, dancers and gymnasts love Pilates because it teaches body control and how to move properly. Celebrities such as Madonna, Cameron Diaz and Sting have all practiced Pilates. But everyday folks can also benefit by learning to keep the shoulders down, head in alignment with the spine and abs contracted while going about the business of everday living.

How Does Pilates Reduce Stress?

Controlled breathing is one of the principles of the traditional Pilates method. It is at the “core” of every movement, exercise and pose. When you are focused on breathing properly, with complete concentration, your mind is quiet and free from stress and anxiety.

Most of us react to stress with shallow, chest-based breathing. Because we aren’t getting enough oxygen with each breath, we tend to feel even more jittery and nervous. By practicing deep breathing, we can switch off the stress response and break the stress cycle. The Pilates method teaches deep abdominal breathing that soothes the nervous system. The physical benefits of deep breathing are: a lower heart rate, reduced blood pressure, reduced production of stress hormones, reduced production of lactic acid in the muscles, increased energy, a more effective immune system, and a general feeling of calmness.

How Does Pilates Assist in Recovery From Injury?

The Pilates exercise machines have been found to greatly assist regular physical therapy in the recovery of various injuries. The method has been found to be effective at any time during the recovery period and has been known to significantly reduce the healing time.

Although the Pilates method is designed as an overall body system, it can be used to target specific areas of the body. The emphasis on proper breathing technique is critical to the healing process, as greater amounts of oxygen and improved circulation can work together to greatly accelerate the healing time.

Pilates sessions also takes pressure off the patient’s back and neck, and help improve flexibility that is often lost as a result of physical trauma. Pilates can also help reduce pain by building new neuromuscular patterns, better coordination and endurance.