Read on and discover 10 surprising benefits of Pilates that have nothing to do with “the core.”
1. PILATES WORKS FOR EVERYONE
The great thing about Pilates – and especially equipment Pilates – is that it can be easily modified. This means that Pilates can be safely practised by pretty much everyone.
Using the support of the equipment, Pilates exercises can be broken down so that they become achievable for beginners. At the same time, the addition (or removal) of a few springs on a machine can make movements more challenging for people who have been practising Pilates for a while.
Pilates exercises performed both on the mat or with machines can also be made suitable for pregnant women. While modified exercises can be used for rehabbing injuries.
All of this means that (with the guidance of a good instructor) Pilates can be practised at all stages of life. Making it a brilliant way to keep fit in old age.
2. PILATES HELPS WITH LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE
Our lymphatic system is an important part of our immune system. It’s basically our body’s way of disposing of the waste products produced by our cells.
This cellular waste product is carried in the lymph fluid – a fluid that is similar to blood. It contains millions of vessels and flows around the body. Unlike blood, however, that has a heart to pump it around the body, lymph requires breathing, movement of muscles and the flow of intestinal fluids to stimulate its flow.
Getting the lymph fluid flowing freely around the body is essential. This is how toxins reach the lymph nodes and are expelled from the body.
Pilates is great for stimulating lymphatic flow because it gets the body twisting and turning in all planes and orientations. Pilates also focuses on moving and mobilising joints. This is particularly useful when it comes to lymphatic movement and detoxification because most of these lymph nodes are found at joints.
It seems that Joseph Pilates (the man who invented Pilates) knew what he was saying when he described Pilates as a “cleaning” system for the body.
3. PILATES CREATES A MIND-BODY CONNECTION
Like Yoga and Tai Chi, Pilates was designed by Joseph Pilates to be a mindful form of exercise.
This means that through practising it, Pilates helps to bring your awareness to your body and your movement.
How does Pilates do this? If you’ve tried a Pilates class you’ll know that during exercises you’re encouraged to focus on the sensations inside the body by bringing your attention to what your muscles and bones are doing in that moment.
And there is good reason for this. Pilates exercises require precision and control, and so complete focus is needed to execute them well.
There are other benefits of moving mindfully in this way, too. Connecting to your body in this way also helps you successfully activate – and relax! – your muscles when appropriate.
Plus, as with anything “mindful”, Pilates performed with this intention can also reduce stress and improve cognitive function.
4. PILATES ALIGNS THE BODY
Pilates brings awareness to your alignment and through that can help you feel if and how you are misaligned.
For those who need it, Pilates can then help you find a natural “neutral” alignment (when all three curves of the spine are intact).
Primarily, changes are achieved through performing the right exercises to meet your needs. Such as fixing any muscle imbalances that are making you tip sideways, or mobilise your mid-spine so that you can stand upright.
Equipment-based Pilates can also be beneficial when it comes to finding the right alignment for your body. This is because the equipment provides you with feedback, allowing you to feel for yourself when you’re out of alignment and self-correct. This then helps to reinforce good habits and makes changes to your alignment long-lasting.
Improving your alignment and developing good posture has numerous benefits. These include: appearing slimmer, reducing aches and pains, and better breathing mechanics.
According to Brent Anderson, Pilates instructor, Physiotherapist and CEO of Polestar Pilates, having good posture can also make your muscles function properly. According to him, there is no need to “over-recruit” muscles, like your abs, to activate them. Instead, Anderson explains, “Your [muscles] will work, you just have to be in the right alignment.”
5. PILATES IMPROVES SPORTS PERFORMANCE
Dancers and elite sports men and women have benefitted from the Pilates method since it was first invented back in the 1920s.
Since then, however, Pilates has become the go-to for fitness fanatics or people playing recreational sports looking to improve their game, for injury prevention and for rehab. And, as many have discovered, you don’t have to be a professional to reap the benefits of Pilates’s game-enhancing properties.
Tennis players (of any standard) can benefit from Pilates. As can people who do triathlons for fun and football after work. Pilates is also an effective way to support your body if you’re a fan of weight-lifting at the gym or running.
After all, Pilates is all about efficiency of movement, creating balanced muscles, and improving mobility in the spine and elsewhere – and these are things all fitness enthusiasts can benefit from.
6. PILATES IMPROVES BALANCE
If you’ve ever tried Pilates then you’ll know that certain movements really challenge your balance – and none more so than the side splits performed on a moving reformer platform on a light spring or lunging on the chair with no handles.
Dynamic exercises like these help to improve the efficiency of the body’s deep stabilising muscles. Through regularly practising these kinds of movements, practitioners can also develop better coordination and balance.
Balance, coordination and stability are skills everyone can benefit from having, from sports professionals to desk workers. For athletes like tennis players, for example, developing better balance through Pilates can help them keep upright after having hit a ball when twisting and on one leg.
Developing these skills can be especially beneficial for older people with (brittle bone disease) osteoporosis. The elderly need to avoid falls as this can lead to broken bones, and much worse.
As well as being suitable for people of any age and ability, benefits like these are another reason for older people to give Pilates a try.
7. PILATES WORKS THE WHOLE BODY
Unlike many forms of exercise, Pilates moves the body in all directions and orientations.
This means that in contrast to lifting weights at the gym, which usually works your body in one direction and one plane, Pilates strengthens and mobilises all muscles of the body.
This makes the body universally stronger and can protect it from injury when you happen to suddenly twist or turn in an unusual way. It can also create more balanced and uniform muscles.
This makes Pilates a great way to complement and enhance a gym-based workout with weights.
8. PILATES IMPROVES CIRCULATION
Deep breathing and good posture improve circulation. And Pilates focuses on both things.
As we’ve already mentioned, Pilates exercises strengthen the postural muscles and improve spine mobility to create good posture. This improves circulation by helping the blood to flow more easily around the body.
On top of that, people who practise Pilates regularly develop good breathing habits through learning to inhale and exhale fully (most of the time we breathe shallowly and in our chests).
This is achieved through bringing attention to the breath and by using it in a conscious way when performing certain exercises.
Other techniques, like diaphragm and abdominal release, which are more common in 1-2-1 Pilates sessions, also help people access better movement of their ribs and diaphragm, and this also leads to deeper breathing.
All of this supports good circulation because deep breathing encourages blood to flow to the chest and the heart.
9. PILATES IS GOOD FOR SPINE HEALTH
Spinal fluid lubricates the discs and vertebrae of the spinal column. This is what keeps the spine healthy. When these discs dry out (due to old age, illness or injury), an achy and stiff back and restricted movement can be the consequence.
Twisting movements can help combat this dryness. Twisting lubricates the spine and therefore keeps discs plump and healthy
This is where Pilates comes in useful. Pilates is famous for the way it twists and turns the spine in all directions. “Spine twist”, a movement that is performed on the mat, is just one example of the many rotating, twisting and spine-turning exercises you’ll find performed in a Pilates class.
And exercises like these are what make practising Pilates regularly a good way of keeping your spine healthy.
10. PILATES BOOSTS ENERGY LEVELS
People often say they feel both relaxed and invigorated by a Pilates session.
And while this may seem contradictory, there is now research to back up these feelings. According to research done at the University of Georgia, people with fatigue problems saw their energy levels improve by 20 percent when they stuck to a routine of low-intensity exercise.
And Pilates is the perfect low-intensity exercise for those of us over-tired, over-worked and in need of an energy boost (pretty much everyone these days).
Pilates works your muscles without overstimulating your nervous system or fatiguing the body. This means you come away from a class or 1-2-1 session feeling worked out, relaxed and more alert – all at the same time.
Found this article interesting? You might want to check out our post on the myths about Pilates.