Pilates is a method of exercising that lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion.
In the 1920s Joseph Pilates created Pilates as a way to help injured athletes and dancers safely return to exercise and maintain their fitness. Since then, Pilates has been adapted, advanced and refined. Many types of people, at many levels of fitness, say they’ve seen improvements through Pilates in: body awareness, range of motion, flexibility, circulation, posture and muscle strength.
Pilates requires concentration and focus, because you move your body through precise ranges of motion. Each exercise has a prescribed placement, rhythm and breathing pattern, working select muscle groups.
The health benefits of Pilates include:
- Improved flexibility
- Increased muscle strength and tone, particularly of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body)
- Balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body
- Enhanced muscular control of your back and limbs
- Improved stabilisation of your spine
- Improved posture
- Rehabilitation or prevention of injuries related to muscle imbalances
- Improved physical coordination and balance
- Relaxation of your shoulders, neck and upper back
- Safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries
- Prevention of musculoskeletal injuries
- Increased lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing
- Improved concentration
- Increased body awareness
- Stress management and relaxation.
Pilates is for everyone:
Pilates caters for all levels of fitness and ability from beginner to advanced. You can perform exercises using your own body weight, or with the help of various pieces of equipment. A typical Pilates workout includes a number of exercises and stretches. Each exercise is performed with attention to proper breathing techniques and abdominal muscle control. To gain the maximum benefit, you should do Pilates at least two or three times per week. The Pilates method is taught to suit each person and exercises are regularly re-evaluated to ensure they are appropriate for that person. Due to the individual attention, this method can suit everybody from elite athletes to people with limited mobility, pregnant women and people with low fitness levels.
The two basic forms of Pilates are:
- Mat-based Pilates – this is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide resistance. The main aim is to condition the deeper, supporting muscles of your body to improve posture, balance and coordination
- Equipment-based Pilates – this includes specific equipment that works against spring-loaded resistance, including the ‘reformer’, which is a moveable carriage that you push and pull along its tracks. Some forms of Pilates include weights (such as dumbbells) and other types of small equipment that offer resistance to the muscles.
Pilates and general precautions
Although Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise, certain people should seek medical advice before embarking on any new exercise program, including:
- People who have recently had surgery
- Pregnant women
- People aged 40 years or more
- People with a pre-existing medical condition such as heart disease
- People with pre-existing musculoskeletal injuries or disorders
- Anyone who has not exercised for a long time
- People who are very overweight or obese.