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Pilates is great for anyone who wants to be physically fitter and stronger. From absolute beginners to elite athletes, everyone has something to gain from doing Pilates regularly. And whether your goal is recover from injury, improve your posture or get a bit more toned, Pilates can help you get there.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a gentle, non-impact exercise which aims to improve muscle strength and flexibility evenly all over the body. It consists of many different stretches and exercise which you can on a mat, or using specialist equipment such as the Reformer or Cadillac. This apparatus can be used to provide support for beginners, or extra resistance for people who want to challenge their body1.
Pilates places a lot of emphasis on core strength, and its importance for overall health and wellbeing2.
Who can do Pilates?
Almost anyone can do Pilates. Both men and women find it beneficial to their health, either as a stand-alone activity or a complementary part of a wider regime. One of the main advantages of this type of exercise is that you don’t need any pre-existing strength, fitness or ability to get started and feel the health benefits2.
It’s safe for people of all ages and activity levels. It’s a low-impact exercise, so it’s also an ideal rehabilitation exercise for people who are recovering from an injury3.
However, Pilates may not be suitable for people with some chronic injuries. As with any new exercise or fitness programme, you should consult your doctor before starting Pilates for the first time if you have any concerns about a health condition or injury 4.
What are the health benefits?
The health benefits of Pilates are wide-ranging and can have a significant impact on your quality of life. For example, many people find that having a stronger core helps to improve their posture and relieve back pain.
However, there haven’t been many in-depth studies into the benefits of Pilates, so most of what we know about the benefits comes from the claims of practitioners, and the people who have found Pilates has helped them.
- Improved flexibility - Pilates is great for flexibility and all-round agility, because it combines strength exercises with dynamic stretches. Unlike static stretches (which you hold in one position), dynamic stretches keep your muscles warm and moving as you stretch – so you can push yourself without pain3.
- Increased strength - You might not be in the gym lifting weights every day, but Pilates can help to improve your muscular strength. Pilates starts from your core and works outwards. It’s particularly good at targeting muscle groups such as the abdominal obliques, which are hard to focus on with other strength exercises. This core strength has many other associated benefits, including improved posture and reduced stress on certain joints3.
- Reduced stress - In addition to relieving pain and stiffness that could have been adding to your stress levels, Pilates is great for reducing stress. Many exercises are combined with a focus on controlled breathing, which is calming. This focus on breathing is similar to the techniques used in meditation to relieve tension and boost mental wellbeing3.
Despite all of the benefits of Pilates, it’s no substitute for regular cardiovascular exercise4. For people who are more sedentary, or less able to do cardiovascular exercise, Pilates is a great, gentle way to get active. But if you’re able to, it’s best to combine Pilates with sessions of walking, jogging, swimming, cycling or any other forms of exercise. Plus, the strength and flexibility you develop in Pilates will help you move more freely, perform better and avoid injury.
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