Pilates is a form of exercise performed either on the mat or on different pieces of Pilates equipment. 

The exercises are low impact and are designed to target the core while also working with every other body part.  Pilates is gaining popularity with athletes, movie stars, and the general population.  The exercises can be used for injury prevention, rehabilitation, mind-body awareness, fitness, and more.  There is a plethora of new research emerging showing the benefit of pilates. We have put together some of the major reasons for the popularity of pilates and how the studies are backing up the popularity.

There is no question that many of us are living hectic lives.  With our busy lifestyle, self-care is more important than ever.  An exercise routine including Pilates practice allows us to take time out and focus on ourselves and our bodies. This mind-body connection can go a long way in reducing stress levels.  Studies have shown that pilates can lead to better sleep and stress reduction (7).  For those moms that have recently had a baby and are feeling sleep deprived there is hope.  Pilates has been shown to improve the quality of sleep for postpartum moms (8)

We all know that you are a better mom and feel better about yourself when you are rested.

So grab another mom friend and give pilates a try.

In addition to our busy stressful lifestyle, we are also a more sedentary society.  We sit too much, for long period at a time, and don’t move nearly as much as we should.  This can lead to many health complications including decreased bone density and osteoporosis.  For some women, decreased bone mineral density and osteoporosis are direct consequences of menopause.

Lower bone density is a risk for fractures and pain.

The medication to increase bone density can have difficult side effects.  Exercise and diet could be an alternative to medications for individuals with lower bone density.   Studies have shown that Pilates can be effective in increasing bone density and relieving pain (9).

Pilates helps balance muscles and creates an evenly conditioned body.

When muscles are either weak and loose or tight and rigid they are more likely to become injured.  With Pilates exercises, muscle strengthening happens in a low impact and controlled manner which is better able to support and stabilize the muscles and joints.  Much of the focus of pilates is on the core, but all muscle groups are involved in the exercises from the feet to the upper neck.  With no muscles being left out you get a full-body experience.  A review of the research by a Brazilian group found that pilates is effective in injury prevention. (4)  Many professional athletes and trainers are now using pilates for sports training  (5)  (6).  Olympian athletes, dancers gymnastics, and tennis players have all found that pilates helps strengthen, stabilize and prevent injuries in their sports.

A study published in the NIH found that pilates can have an impact on low back pain (1).  Pilates movements focus on control.  The exercises are designed to target the deeper core muscles along with the pelvic floor and diaphragm.  The exercises teach you to control the muscles with both the contraction (tighten) and release (relax) of the muscles.  This control is an essential part of stabilization for your back.  

A systematic review was performed of the research by Wells et al on back pain and pilates of 14 randomized controlled trials (RCT)s from the years 2005–2014. The results suggest that Pilates exercise offers greater improvements in pain intensity and functional ability compared with usual care and physical activity—(2)

Pilates exercises for back pain do not need to be complicated.  You can grab a mat and band and get started. (Always consult a health professional before starting a new exercise program)

“A MAN IS AS YOUNG AS HIS SPINAL COLUMN” – Joseph Pilates

Pilates exercises work on strengthening and stretching muscles with a focus on the core including the lower abdominals, pelvic floor, and back muscles.  The exercises work on several muscle groups together in a smooth movement and teach alignment to support the spine in an upright position. When muscles are balanced, strong, and long, you are able to stand up straight and taller with better posture   (3)

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, a natural hormone that improves mood.

When researchers studied the effects of Pilates on mood, they found that Pilates can reduce anxiety, reduce fatigue, reduce depression and reduce negative thought patterns.

(11)  In one study they specifically looked at the moods and behaviors of young men and they found the same results, Pilates improved the mood state response of the young men. (10) 

In conclusion, Pilates exercises are appropriate for everyone. 

The movements are low impact and there are countless adaptations and accommodations to make them more or less challenging for fitness or rehabilitation needs. 

Pilates can be performed on the mat, but the reformer is one of the most popular pieces of Pilates equipment.  The reformer uses a pulley system with springs of varying tension to increase or decrease the resistance.

The reformer is perfect for beginners as it can help modify many of the mat exercises.  The adaptability of the reformer makes it ideal for rehabilitation purposes and injury prevention.  Studies show the Pilates equipment might be more effective than Pilates mat exercises on injury rehabilitation (12) The reformer is also perfect for fitness enthusiasts as it can be adjusted to make the exercises more challenging.  The reformer can build muscle strength and endurance 

No matter what your age, sex, size, fitness level, or physical abilities, pilates can challenge you in a safe and effective way.  There are many many great benefits to pilates, and many of these benefits are backed by research.

I do pilates for all the reasons above, but above all else, I do pilates because it is FUN!  Have you tried pilates?

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