First introduced to the world nearly 100 years ago in New York City, Pilates is still a popular form of exercise today. Pilates classes can be found in gyms throughout the country and celebrities often sing its praises.
If you’ve never done Pilates before, you may be a little confused or even intimidated by this exercise method. But the great news is that Pilates is for everybody! Mary Arend, fitness instructor with ProMedica Wildwood Athletic Club, says men, women, athletes, dancers, those with chronic pain and even pregnant mothers can enjoy Pilates.
“It builds a stronger core, better balance, increases flexibility and promotes stability,” Arend explains. “Additionally, it strengthens your brain’s connections with all the micro-muscles that might get overlooked in a typical workout.”
Ready to learn more? Here are a few things about Pilates you may not know.
1. Pilates is for everyone–really!
Yes, we’ve already mentioned this, but if you’re still feeling unsure if Pilates could work for you, it may help to know that the exercise method was originally developed by Joseph Pilates to help train and rehabilitate injured soldiers.
“Joseph Pilates rigged springs to hospital beds to bedridden patients so they could exercise against resistance,” Arend explains.
Today’s Pilates classes can be done on floor mats or a machine called the Reformer.
2. Breathing is fundamental in Pilates.
“Breathing helps to focus the mind and the fresh air rids the lungs of stale air,” says Arend. “The goal is to oxygenate the blood and increase overall circulation. The breath will help initiate and support movements.”
In fact, breathing is one of the six principles in Pilates: Centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow.
3. Pilates strengthens your “Powerhouse”.
The Powerhouse consists of the transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis (abs), internal and external oblique muscles, pelvic floor muscles and erector spinae muscles.
“Think of all the muscles around the buttocks all the way up to the shoulders,” explains Arend. “Having a strong Powerhouse allows for better posture and keeps the whole body connected like a tight corset around your trunk. The benefits include injury prevention, protection for your inner organs and central nervous system, potential relief from back pain, and better posture.”
4. Pilates can strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight ones.
According to Arend, Pilates is about strengthening the core, including those muscles you don’t typically think about.
“We are very dominant in our anterior (front) side of the body to a point that it creates imbalance,” Arend says. “Pilates targets the back to develop overall stability and support for the spine. The specific exercises used in the method will both strengthen weak muscles and stretches the tight, creating a balance from the front to the back of your body.”