Developed in the 1920s by its namesake, Joseph Pilates, today the practice of Pilates is popular worldwide. Often confused with yoga, Pilates is a unique discipline based on six key principles — centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. The practice focuses on building core strength to develop control and endurance in the entire body, and can help improve strength, flexibility, balance and agility.
What’s more, Pilates has a number of surprising health benefits that you may not be aware of. So here they are…
1) Build core strength
Pilates is best known for supporting the development of a strong core and abdominal muscles. However, don’t be mistaken in thinking that Pilates is only about getting washboard abs! More fundamentally it’s about improving the strength of all the muscles in the trunk of your body, including your lower back, glutes and hips, which are in constant use in our daily lives. During a Pilates workout these so called ‘core’ muscles will be engaged most of the time, helping to strengthen and tone, as well as build endurance.
2) Improve posture
Pilates is often recommended for people that sit at a desk all day, as it can help improve your posture. This is because the discipline focuses on building muscle symmetry as well as strengthening the muscles that support the back, helping to improve your overall spinal alignment.
There is also evidence to suggest that some Pilates movements can reduce back pain by relieving tension and tightness in your back muscles. However, if you do have back pain, you should of course consult a doctor first to find out if Pilates might be right for you.
3) Better breathing
Breathing patterns are an important part of Pilates practice and can provide many related health benefits. Firstly deep breathing can improve blood circulation, which helps to cleanse the body of toxins and allows your muscles to recover more quickly. It has also been proven to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.
Lateral breathing techniques used in Pilates are also designed to help you maintain an abdominal contraction while performing the movements, ensuring you maintain a stable core and protect your back muscles during exercise.
4) Prevent injury
Unlike other workouts that may involve weights to build muscle, Pilates not only focuses on strengthening but also on improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility. This can reduce the risk of weak or stiff joints, helping prevent injury in the longer term as well as improve your overall performance in other forms of sport. Pilates is also considered to be a low impact exercise, so in some circumstances it can be suitable for use in rehabilitation after an injury.
5) Boost control
One of the six principles of Pilates is ‘Contrology’, or the art of using your mind and breath to control your muscles. The discipline often requires you to concentrate the mind on performing very small movements correctly, which is why for those practicing Pilates, quality is more important than quantity.
As a result, the discipline can help people to better engage their mind during exercise and become more self-aware of their own body. This in turn can better enable you to control your overall movement, and improve general fitness and wellbeing.
So there you have it, five great health reasons to consider taking up Pilates. There are many qualified instructors out there, so why not find a class and give it a try today?