Exercise is one of the important pillars of good health. It has been proven to be as effective (or more) than many drug treatments for common health concerns such as heart disease, depression and diabetes, to name just a few.
It’s important to incorporate a variety of different workouts to exert your muscles and gain the most from your time spent. This is only one of the reasons I recommend you incorporate high intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training, flexibility training and core exercises into your workouts each week.
Pilates is a form of exercise that will build a strong core, improve your flexibility and has some strength training benefits as well. As I have stressed before, it is important to listen to your body as you engage in exercise, improve your sleep habits and change your dietary habits.
How you feel is a great indicator of how well these new habits are changing your health.
History of Pilates
Pilates is a form of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates with the expressed mission of giving people a means of achieving a uniformly developed body and union of mind, body and spirit.1 Pilates was German born and immigrated to Britain before coming to America.
He was likely the first influential person to integrate ideas about health from Western and Eastern ideologies.2 He opened his first studio in New York, which fast became popular with dancers who found his particular brand of exercise helped them recover from injuries and prevent recurrence.
The approach to fitness is founded on six principles Pilates developed that ultimately define the exercise and process a student undergoes.
Incorporating these six principles, Pilates believed would “give you suppleness, natural grace and skill.”3 The principles guide the teacher, student and those who develop new movements.
The exercises are often completed in a specific order, usually appearing simple but requiring a great deal of precision and control to successfully complete.4 Although demanding, you’ll not work up a sweat. The exercises target your abdominals, glutes, legs and back muscles, all needed for a strong core.
Flexibility, joint mobility and increasing strength using body weight are the principle muscle improvements you’ll notice. Since it is not competitive, you may tailor the workout to your individual needs, including arthritis and back pain.5
It’s important to discuss adding Pilates to your routine with your physician as adjustments must be made in certain medical conditions, such as pregnancy, if you suffer diabetic retinopathy, or if you have a knee or back injury to name a few.
Concentration and the mind-body connection is the very core of Pilates and the improvements you’ll experience. The focus is on awareness of your muscles, body position and moving parts.
It is not enough to simply go through the motions as mindfulness helps the body to relax, and your mind to connect to your body.
Precise control during fluid motion is what sets Pilates apart from other exercises and the reason many dancers appreciate the benefits of the workout.
Pilates believed that to become fit you must train your mind to control your body. Proper control and correct form allows for better exercise and improved benefits.
The position of your body in relationship to other parts of your body is vital to the success and safety of practicing Pilates.
Precision may prevent injury and increases muscle memory of the exercise, enabling you to focus on creating balance. Executing one exercise deliberately is more important than increasing repetitions using sloppy form.
Deep, controlled, diaphragmatic breathing improves circulation and is critical to performing Pilates correctly. Pilates believed that proper and controlled breathing would help you control your movements and improve oxygenation to your tissues.
Fluid movements assist transition between exercises and is integral to the practice of Pilates. Through the development of grace and fluidity, Pilates believed you acquired strength and stamina, improving muscle strength, balance and better neuromuscular connections.
In Pilates, the center of your body (abdomen, low back, hips and buttocks) are the powerhouse of your strength and all energy is initiated from this powerhouse. Pilates also believed that focusing on the center of your body helped calm your mind and spirit.
Read more about the health benefits of pilates on Mercola.com.