Joseph Pilates designed Pilates workouts in the early 20th century, and these different exercises were much practiced by gymnasts, but didn’t gain mainstream popularity until the late 20th century. Today people can find Pilates mat classes, Pilates machines and a variety of DVDs and tapes that teach different exercises and are designed to benefit the body in numerous ways. There are many benefits attributed to Pilates, but some of the claims about benefits may be variable due to instructor’s experience and student’s ability to modify exercises to present fitness level.
One common statement about Pilates workouts is that they work on core muscles. These are the abdomen, pelvis, and lower back. A stronger core can correspond to better balance and better posture. Several studies on Pilates have also shown that people with mild low back pain or hip pain may be helped by gentle exercises emphasizing core work. Improvement in stance might decrease things like neck, shoulder or knee pain, too.
Another of the benefits of Pilates workouts correctly performed is they tend to have low impact on the body and low rate of exerciser injury. This really depends on quality of instruction and the ability of a person to listen to instructions. Poor instruction might mean injury, and as with any exercise, getting a doctor’s clearance first and taking beginning and gentle classes is advised.
Pilates doesn’t build huge muscles and it is not a cardiovascular workout, though it is infinitely superior to doing nothing. The American Council on Exercise still sees Pilates workouts as a great way to augment cardiovascular exercise. The work done tends to result in lengthened muscles and increasing flexibility, and a vigorous workout will still burn some calories.
There have also been many claims that Pilates workouts, by increasing flexibility, are of great use to those in menopause. Retaining muscle mass might delay or reduce osteoporosis. Flexibility and balance may keep joints from deteriorating, and might prevent falls.
Pilates workouts are partially based on yoga and have strong emphasis on the connection between mind and body. A number of people find stress relief through the practice of either form of exercise and some classes combine yoga and Pilates. Stress reduction has many potential benefits and can lead to better cardiac health, less insomnia, and reduction in anxiety.
Overall, pilates workouts may benefit people by working core muscles, strengthening lean muscles, increasing flexibility and balance, reducing effects of menopause, lowering back pain and emphasizing a mind/body connection. Pilates is not an aerobic exercise so people should be sure to add cardiovascular exercises to this form of workout. It’s a good idea to start slow with a well-trained teacher when beginning Pilates workouts or if a person has physical issues. For more advanced students, home workouts with tapes or advanced workouts in studios are usually appropriate and challenging.