As the owner of a Pilates studio, I am often asked what Pilates is, and then if the person is genuinely interested in their health and wellbeing, what benefit they might get from participating regularly.
Well of course, I am biased because I have seen first-hand the extraordinary change people experience in their fitness and importantly mobility when they practice regularly. But these initial conversations, tend to start with me explaining that it is not hard exercise regime, it will not make you hot and sweaty, and unlike Yoga there is no standing on your head or chanting. All of which tends to go down well with most people.
What I have found over the years is that nice though it is to teach Pilates to the occasional super-fit enthusiast, most people are actually busy juggling the many commitments in life and what they actually want is once or twice a week to carve out a bit of time for themselves. They want to improve their health and wellbeing, but they also want to do something which is pleasurable, rather than physically hard.
Pilates is brilliant for all these things. For those that have never tried it, all that is involved is continuous movement of various parts of your body to help you strengthen your muscles, making you more flexible as you develop core muscle strength. I think what appeals to most is that anyone can do Pilates. You just need to follow the instructions of your Pilates instructor and they will adapt the exercises to fit with your own level of fitness and mobility, especially if you have any injuries.
With more than 30 years’ experience as a Physiotherapist and 14 years teaching Pilates, I have learned that people do Pilates for several reasons but top of the list would be the following -
1 Pilates improve flexibility and strength of the whole body. Pilates exercises are not designed to build muscle but just to give you strength to do normal daily tasks – like picking up the groceries, bending down to weed your favorite garden patch, getting out of bed. We do a lot of exercises that that involved all parts of the body – arms, legs abdomen and gluteal – the muscles that is in your buttocks
2 Pilates helps with back pain. Pilates is particularly good exercise for many people with back pain as it is designed to strengthen the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, which provide support to the back. Pilates has been found to reduce chronic back pain and the disability associated with back pain.
3 Pilates improves your core strength. When we talk about the core of the body, we normally refer the abdomen and pelvis. By building strength in these areas of the body we increase flexibility and tone the body.
4 Pilates helps with relaxation and reduces stress. You know the expression when you are under stress – “Now take a deep breath”? Well we do a lot of breathing exercised in Pilates not only does it fill the lungs with oxygen it also helps to relax the mind and body. To me the breathing part of Pilates is so important that I had the word Breath written on large letters on the studio wall.
5 People do not like going to a gym. I find that a lot of our customers – mostly older people do not relish the idea of going to gym to do exercises, they prefer the quite relaxed atmosphere of Pilates studio. Now not all of us can or want to visit a Pilates studio - it may not be convenient; the class times might not suit you, or perhaps you simply want to practice Pilates in the peace and quiet of your own home.
There are more reasons people do Pilates, but in my experience these are the most often mentioned.