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The Health Benefits of Pilates
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Originally, Joseph Pilates called his exercise program Contrology, a series of physical activities he devised in the early 1900s to bring body, mind and spirit into balance. Now known by its creator’s name, the Pilates method combines flowing poses, precise body movements and rhythmic breathing to provide a number of health benefits.
Stretches for a Limber Body
Practitioners of Pilates stretch and elongate all their major muscles as they move through a series of exercises. They repeat each sequence five to 10 times over a 45- to 90-minute session either on a mat or resistance equipment. The stretches are done in low repetitions and without straining, keeping the muscles limber without taking them to the point of exhaustion. An investigation of a number of studies on the benefits of Pilates published in the “Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation” confirmed that there’s strong evidence that the practice increases flexibility.
Control for Strength and Stability
The American Council on Exercise says that Pilates helps to improve core strength. While ACE doesn’t elaborate on how this happens, Australia’s Better Health Channel offers a clue when it says that the Pilates method requires precision of body movement and breathing with particular attention given to abdominal muscle control, an action that engages the major core muscles and also improves balance.
Precision for Better Posture
Pilates emphasizes the precision of each movement rather than strength and endurance. The precision with which Pilates is practiced -- proper placement of the body, focus on a central body point and accurate breathing rhythm -- leads to improved posture within 10 to 20 sessions, according to Better Health Channel.
Adaptable for All Ages
In an interview with UK’s National Health Service, Pilates Foundation co-founder and veteran Pilates teacher Anne-Marie Zulkahari says that an experienced instructor can adapt the Pilates method for individuals of all ages and fitness levels. However, consult a doctor before starting any new physical practice, especially if you have a medical condition or are pregnant.
- Better Health Channel: Pilates and Yoga: Health Benefits
- Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: A Systematic Review of the Effects of Pilates Method of Exercise in Healthy People
- American Council on Exercise: ACE-sponsored Study: Can Pilates Do It All?
- National Health Service: A Guide to Pilates
- Discovering Pure Classical Pilates: Theory and Practice as Joseph Pilates Intended; Peter Fiasca, Ph.D.
Emma Watkins writes on finance, fitness and gardening. Her articles and essays have appeared in "Writer's Digest," "The Writer," "From House to Home," "Big Apple Parent" and other online and print venues. Watkins holds a Master of Arts in psychology.