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4 Reasons To Start Reaping The Health Benefits Of Pilates

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Pilate’s is a low-impact method of exercising that focuses on building core strength, particularly in the abs and the muscles supporting the back, hips and thighs. A typical routine usually involves doing 25 to 50 repetitive strength training moves. While some routines use specialized equipment to add resistance to its exercises, many routines are performed on a mat lying on the floor, meaning you can also practice this form of Pilates at home.

Several health benefits of Pilates can be derived from practicing Pilates including:

Increased core strength

Because all movements originate at the core, not only are the abs strengthened (giving you the flat stomach you’ve always wanted), but also the muscles supporting the lumbar spine, legs and pelvic floor. A strong inner core is the starting point and from there the movements flow outward to develop the extremities.

Better posture and balance

Many injuries of the back are caused by poor posture. Sitting behind a desk eight hours a day is particular detrimental to good posture. Pilates can bring back your straight erectness that you had as a young adult. Plus, because Pilates develops muscles equally, you’ll find that you’ll have better balance. Better balance means less chance of falling and suffering a debilitating injury.

Improved flexibility

Pilates target not only the back, but also front, sides, hamstrings and hips. By working these body parts through their full range of motion, joints become more flexible. While yoga uses more of a static-type stretching (holding the stretch for up to 30 seconds), Pilates uses dynamic stretching (moving the joint and muscles through a full range of motion, but not holding the stretch). More flexibility makes it easier to do common tasks like mop the floor, carry laundry and vacuum.

Decreased back pain

A common cause of back pain is bad posture. As noted above, Pilates improves posture and can alleviate back pain, before it progresses to an injury. Back pain can also be caused by an imbalance of muscles – one muscle stronger than its opposing muscle. Because Pilates is especially good at improving postural asymmetries, back pain subsides once muscular balance is achieved.

These are only a tip of the iceberg as far as the health benefits that can be derived from Pilates. This exercise program makes a great pre-workout for loosening up muscles and joints in preparation for a more demanding cardio or weight training program.

4 Reasons to Consider Starting Pilates

There are many reasons why you should consider starting Pilates. Enhanced coordination, better balance, improved spinal alignment and an efficiency of movement and breathing for starters. But here are 4 reasons that seem to provide the most motivation for people new to Pilates:

1) Look Thinner

One of the advantages of doing Pilates is that it improves your posture. With you standing more erect and upright, that alone makes you look 5 to 10 pounds lighter than you did when slumping forward. And who doesn’t want to look thinner? That extra boost in appearance alone gives you a huge self-confidence boost.

Can Pilates Help You Lose Weight?

There are two types of Pilates – classical that uses just a mat, and weighted or resistance that uses machines. Each type is addressed separately as both are different as far as if they can help you lose weight or not.

If you are talking about classical Pilates, then the answer is no it is not an effective direct weight loss tool, but it can indirectly help you lose weight by preparing your body to do cardio and strength training that will take off pounds that you might not otherwise be able to lose. Let me explain.

Pilates helps strengthen your body so you can do more types of training that are calorie burners and will ultimately help you lose weight, such as cardio and strength training. With a decreased risk of injury, a stronger core, and more flexibility from doing Pilates, you can exercise longer and harder at doing something that does burn a lot of calories than you would have been able to do had you not practiced Pilates in the first place. Running on a treadmill, riding a bike, swimming and lifting weights are four exercises that are great calorie-burners.

While not a great calorie burner itself, Pilates does help shape your body by toning muscles especially around your midsection. So even if you don’t lose a significant amount of weight from doing Pilates, it does help you look like you have lost weight.

On-the-other-hand, the type of Pilates that uses machines can result in significant weight loss when executed properly. Basically it is strength training program that specializes on building core muscle mass. And because we are talking about the abdominals, buttocks, upper and lower back, hips and thighs, these are large muscle groups that not only respond well to training, but are great at burning large amounts of calories. When Pilates is coupled with body rings, resistance bands and light weights, not only do you burn calories with resistance Pilates, but you burn more calories when not exercising due to the larger muscle mass created which requires more energy to sustain itself.

A secondary effect experienced by many that practice both types of Pilates is a more self-awareness – a desire to take better care of their bodies. As a result, many make better food choices which result in a decreased number of calories consumed. Eating fewer calories, but yet burning the same amount as before results in even more weight loss.

So the answer to the question is yes it can help you lose weight. While classical Pilates work at an indirect weight loss, resistance Pilates is better at direct weight loss – weight loss derived from doing Pilates itself.

2) Develop Your Core Muscles

Pilates was built on developing the core muscles in the back, hips and thighs. It also effectively works the transverse abdominal muscles that lie just behind the 6-pack abs. By developing these alone, you will be well on your way to a flatter stomach. Better posture and a flatter stomach – do we see a pattern developing here?

Is Pilates A Good Exercise Choice for Older Adults?

When thinking about Pilates, most people think of it as a way to build core strength to support the spine. What many do not know is that it is a good method of exercising to increase joint flexibility and range of motion, improve balance, increase muscle tone, stamina and well being, along with increasing muscle strength – all issues in senior adults.

Because Pilates is a low impact non-cardio form of exercise, almost anyone can do it. Many studios report having clients well in their 80s. The inventor of the program, Joseph Pilates practiced his method well into his 80s!

A studio with good instructors can tailor a Pilates program to improve mobility, balance and strengthen physical weaknesses. Falls, due to one losing their balance, is one of the most reported injuries of seniors. A common result is breaking a hip of which many at that age never fully recover. Practicing Pilates can help prevent falls and reduce the risk of suffering a debilitating injury as a result.

While it is never too late to start a Pilates program, be sure and check with your health-care provider before starting any exercise program. What you don’t want to do is to get into a program that is too challenging for you and end up getting hurt. Even with a program that is right for you, be sure to listen to your body and participate at a level you can comfortably do.

If you have osteoporosis, be sure your instructor knows. Pilates involves a lot of twisting, bending forward and performing certain exercises involving bearing weight – all things people with osteoporosis are not suppose to do. It isn’t a problem if your instructor knows as s/he can tailor a program just to you.

There are two types of Pilates classes. One type uses just a mat while the other one incorporates specialized equipment that increase the resistance of the performed exercises. While either type is good for seniors, the mat classes can be performed at home. That can be a huge advantage if you have a lot of ice and snow where you live and don’t want to risk a fall by going out. Many senior citizen centers offer both types of Pilates that are tailored to the older person.

As you can see, Pilates can be a great program for the senior citizen. It just requires some modification to a standard program and the participant doing what they are comfortable with and within their limitations.

3) Alleviate Back Pain

Can Pilates Damage Your Back?

If done correctly, Pilates will not damage your back. As a matter-of-fact, it can help solve back issues as the exercises performed are aimed at strengthening the muscles that support the back. If fact, Joseph Pilates developed the Pilates program over 100 years ago as a way to rehabilitate injured soldiers, many of them with back issues.

Many people experience back pain because they have bad posture. This puts excess strain on the spine and can cause back pain. Without exercise, they may sit at a desk for eight hours (and most likely hunched over).

Over time, they lose their postural muscle strength and end up not being able to sit up straight even if they wanted to. As the years at the same desk job wear on, posture and back pain becomes increasingly worse.

But Pilates can help by 1) preventing bad posture in the first place and 2) helping you gain back strength in the muscles that support your back. How do you know which exercises will help your back and which ones will hurt? Do the exercise and see how your back reacts.

For instance, if doing exercises like Spine Stretch Forward – a flexion exercise that causes you to round your spine forward – hurt, try doing exercises that do the opposite – arch your back backwards.

Do something like the Rising Swan and see how your back reacts. Many times movement that work your back in the opposite direction of the pain feel good and over time will strengthen the postural muscles thus alleviating your back pain.

Because Pilates stresses the importance of spine neutral alignment, and uses simple exercises that support deep postural muscle improvement and balance, it can be a great program if your back pain is caused by a muscle imbalance – one muscle stronger or weaker than the opposing muscle.

Of course, before starting a Pilates program, be sure to check with your doctor to see if s/he recommends doing Pilates, especially if you have an injured or weak back. If cleared to exercise, also be sure to ask what kind of moves would be best to help build up the muscles in your back and prevent a recurring injury.

If done correctly and with common sense, a Pilates program can benefit your posture and relieve back pain. Always start out slow, do movements correctly and listen to your body. It will tell you if what you are doing hurts or feels good.

Many people experience back pain from the fact that they have some muscles stronger than others. When that is the case, the strong muscles can overpower the weak ones which eventually give out and cause pain. Pilates works to create a balance of strength in a muscle and its opposing partner. With core muscle balance, the spine is equally supported all around and the pain is reduced or in many cases gone altogether.

4) Improve Mental Focus

Part of the Pilates philosophy is an absolute focus on doing each exercise correctly. By learning how to concentrate when doing Pilates, that discipline carries over into your daily life and at work. After practicing Pilates for a while, you’ll find you can get more done with less stress, because you are not being torn in many different directions.

And lastly, unlike other training programs that do the same thing all the time, you won’t get bored doing Pilates. In all it has over 500 different exercises in all. With 25 to 50 exercises per session, there is always something new to learn and do at the next session. And the beauty of Pilates is with an experienced instructor, the exercises can be tailored to just you, if you have some special needs.

This program really is something that almost anyone can do. Not only will you feel better after a few sessions, but you will look better too.

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