How to practice pilates to improve health
Pilates is more commonly associated with posture and bettering our alignment. Less is said about the positive impact pilates can have on our health in general.
Pursued as a means to an end, and to supplement a more vigorous exercise routine, it’s not often we hear of a workout regime and fitness strategy as purely pilates-based. There are many reasons why we should change this and ways to do so.
Using pilates as the cornerstone of how we exercise is good because it focuses on low-impact ways of getting fit, as well as strength and conditioning for both the body and mind. Essentially, more bang for our buck. Here’s a quick guide to using pilates to up the ante and getting our holistic wellbeing in check.
Full body experience
The right pilates class or routine can be as ‘full body’ and impactful as more intense-sounding exercises, such as HIIT or circuits. A cardio-based class, particularly one incorporating moves with resistance bands, allows us to up our heart rate while targeting specific muscle groups. It’s like a one-stop-shop without being overly strenuous or putting pressure on joints or problem areas which sometimes require us to take modifications.
Core is also a huge part of pilates, and working on and building a strong core is very important for avoiding injury. By practicing pilates we’re getting abs while preventing the issues that come with muscle imbalance and a weak stomach area.
M Life tip: swap one workout a week for a pilates/cardio combination workout, and introduce an additional slower paced class. If possible, invest in pilates equipment to get the most out of this change in routine.
Pilates is a form of strength and conditioning but can also help to rehab injuries and alleviate the effects of common problems such as back pain - particularly lower back pain - and ensure it stays away. The breathing required for pilates can also remind us to ease ourselves into movements or poses and slowly send oxygen to all areas of the body, meaning we’re kinder and more thoughtful about how we use our body and why.
A regular pilates commitment not only means we’re more flexible, mobile and strong, but the focus required for pilates classes make it a worthwhile exercise for the brain too. Training our eyes and brain to concentrate purely on the moves we’re doing, or balancing, holding or pulsing in a pose, can clear the mind and help us to deal with racing, stressful thoughts. Most pilates classes also incorporate stretching and a yoga-like savasana at the end of the class, which are also good for relaxation and stress-busting.
Finally, in addition to increased energy, mental clarity and fewer injuries, pilates is linked to good brain functioning and is said to offset the effects of some degenerative diseases. Our friends over at Pilatesbridge.com have gathered more details of the scientific evidence for this here.
M Life tip: research or seek advice as to the best pilates moves for problem areas and injury prone parts of the body to make pilates remedial and fitness-orientated at the same time. And don’t skip the end of the class, stretching and meditation are crucial for body - and soul!
The good life
Lower impact exercise places less of a strain on our muscles but can also mean we can think differently about nutrition. The classes themselves require us to fuel up, but not in the same way as lots of boxing or running, for example. The blood sugar and hunger dip can feel less extreme, but we’re still burning calories throughout our workout*.
A separate benefit of lots of pelvic work and exercises designed to improve mobility is a better *ahem* romantic life, as well as the less sexy aspect that our pelvic floor will be more resilient. Who doesn’t want more fun bedroom and better bladder control?
Lastly, when training for another sport or exercise such as a triathlon or racket sports, pilates is a must-have to ensure we’re not neglecting one area of our body over another and think of our movements and parts of our body as connected. While we may have a dominant hand, foot or better side, pilates helps us to see that they all need to work in harmony. Pilates can also be done at home without much space or equipment, so it’s easy to include as part of an overall training plan without putting the rest of our timetable out of sync.
M Life tip: think holistically about diet and training, and how pilates can be additive or can change existing habits. Treat pilates as an investment in long-term medical health and physical integrity, and use it was a way to nourish our wellbeing.
*We’re not doctors by any stretch of the imagination, this article is just our opinion. Please seek advice from a professional if you want to know more about the pros and cons of types of diet and exercise.