Pilates is an incredibly popular form of exercise. It offers an all-round, integrated workout that focuses on core strength, muscle development, balance, and concentration.
It was developed in the early 20th Century by its namesake, Joseph Pilates, and has steadily grown in popularity ever since. Nowadays you can find Pilates classes almost anywhere you go, and with good reason. As the founder himself said, “[Pilates] develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and evaluates the spirit.”
So let’s take a look at why Pilates is such a great workout.
What is Pilates?
First things first: what exactly is Pilates? In a nutshell, it’s a slow, low-impact exercise method inspired by calisthenics, yoga, and ballet. It has a particular emphasis on strengthening the core, but is aimed at developing all-round fitness and wellbeing.
There are various types of Pilates that require special equipment such as the Reformer and Wunda Chair, but at its most basic level it can be performed with little more than a mat.
According to the Pilates Foundation, Joseph Pilates based his work on three principles: breath, whole-body health, and whole-body commitment. The whole-body, in this instance, referring to mind, body, and spirit.
It’s believed that more than 12 million people practise the method worldwide.
So, now that we’ve covered the what, let’s move on to the why and look at some of the things that make Pilates such a beneficial and popular practise. . .10
It builds strength, not bulk
Pilates is more about developing long lean muscles as opposed to straight bulk. So it’s an excellent choice for those who are looking for tone and not size.
The movements involved in Pilates also place a lot of emphasis on the core, engaging the abdominal muscles and muscles closest to the spine, which helps to build and strengthen the body’s frame.
Essentially, what you’ll develop from Pilates is the sort of functional strength that’s useful for the physical challenges of everyday life.
Increases flexibility and improves posture
When you practise Pilates, you’re working towards increasing muscle length and improved range of joint motion. By achieving this, you may see an improvement in overall flexibility and mobility.
A strong core supports proper alignment, and proper alignment promotes good posture. By training and strengthening the abdominal and lower back muscles, your posture should naturally come into alignment. This is part of the reason why Pilates is often said to help those suffering from back pain.
It can be modified
One of the best reasons to practise Pilates is its accessibility. Many of the moves can be modified to accommodate a broad range of abilities and fitness levels, which means that beginners can jump straight in without feeling overwhelmed.
Setting your own difficulty level means that you can push yourself as and when you feel like it, and if any of the movements become too intense, you can take them down a notch.
Pilates is also a relatively gentle form of exercise. That’s not to suggest that it’s easy. But the fact that many of the movements are performed from a seated or reclining position means that there’s virtually no impact, and very little external strain on the body.
Pilates is good for the mind
Pilates challenges you to focus all of your attention on the movements you’re performing. The slow, flowing nature of the exercises requires unwavering concentration, and the emphasis on proper breathing introduces an element of mindfulness.
So although it can be very physically demanding and challenging, you may just find yourself feeling a little calmer and more focussed after a good Pilates class.