6 Good Reasons to Try Pilates

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/20/2009 11:15 AM   :  191 comments

I never thought Pilates was for me. I saw the videos, infomercials and classes at the gym, often full of older women in leotards, lying on their backs, moving their legs around in the air. It sure didn't look hard. Where was the challenge, resistance, or weights? And it didn't look very fun either, just lying on the floor for so long. I decided that it wasn't for me and that was that…or so I thought.

After I had been teaching fitness classes for a few years, I started to get bored with my usual strength and cardio classes. I needed something new to keep my interest and enthusiasm. What started as a weekend Pilates workshop for inexpensive continuing education credits (necessary for every certified trainer or instructor) turned into a new passion for me. While I took the training course just for credits, I found out that I really liked this Pilates business, and the more I trained, the more benefits I experienced.

I believe that every person can benefit from Pilates—men, women, athletes, couch potatoes. People of all body shapes and weights. People of all levels of fitness and coordination. It truly does offer something for everyone.

In a new dailySpark series, I'll give you plenty of good reasons to try a variety of fitness endeavors that you may have never considered before. First up: 6 good reasons to try mat Pilates.

Look 10 Pounds Thinner: Pilates helps you improve your posture, and the simple act of standing with good posture can make people appear 5-10 pounds thinner (and more confident, too). One of my mentors always says, "Pilates is a lifestyle." By that he means that you don't leave the class behind when you walk out the door. You try to incorporate all of the elements into your daily life—engaging your abs, standing tall, relaxing your shoulders, moving with grace. Pilates exercises help you do all those things, and standing taller and more confidently is a bonus, too.

Have a Ball…and a Roll, a Ring and a Band: Many mat Pilates classes incorporate fun props into their classes, including the mini ball, foam roller, magic circle (ring) and resistance bands. If you've ever wondered how to exercise with these small pieces of equipment, you'll learn in Pilates. Plus, these tiny props offer a BIG challenge for your muscles—and make the classes even more fun! They're inexpensive and versatile and you can use them at home, too.

Stretch and Strengthen Simultaneously: Most of us skimp on the stretching, even though we know it's very beneficial to our muscles, joints and mobility. Pilates stretches are dynamic, not static, which means you move as you stretch; stretches are sprinkled throughout the class (not just at the end, which makes them easy to skip). As another benefit, many of these stretches also strengthen your muscles at the same time. For example, single straight leg stretch is a great abdominal-strengthening exercise that also stretches the hamstrings at the same time—talk about multitasking!

Develop and Define Your Core: More than anything else, Pilates is known for strengthening the core, and boy, does it live up to its reputation! During every single exercise, you focus on keeping your core engaged, even while working your back, arms, legs and thighs. When done properly, you exercise from the center (your core) outward. Practicing 2-3 times a week, I've seen significant improvements in my core strength and endurance, as well as my abdominal definition. Because Pilates teaches you to engage and use your transverse abdominals (this is the horizontal muscle under the vertical "6-pack" muscle), it helps you to pull in and flatten your belly over time.

Alleviate Lower Back Pain: Research shows that Pilates does help reduce and alleviate lower back pain, and this is true in my experience, too. I used to have lower back pain on a regular basis, and I'd occasionally throw out my back to the point where I couldn't even walk or stand up for a few days. Most days, my back hurt most of the time, even if it wasn't completely debilitating. After incorporating Pilates into my fitness routine, I haven't had a single back incident in several years, which I attribute to my greater core strength and spinal mobility—both known products of a Pilates program. Many of my students were referred to Pilates by their doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists to help decrease pain and improve strength after injuries and surgeries to various parts of the body—not just the back.

Focus in the Moment and Forget about Your Day: Perhaps the best benefit of Pilates, for me, is that it requires my focus and attention. You have to concentrate on the idiosyncrasies of each movement—because there is more to it than meets the eye. The position of your feet, legs, neck, arms, shoulders. Consciously engaging your abdominals and holding that contraction. How your breathe and how your breath lines up with your movement. All these things matter if you're going to do it correctly and achieve the most benefits. When I focus in the moment during a class, my to-do list melts away from my mind and for at least 45 minutes, I am in that room, both physically and mentally. When the workout is over, I'm refreshed, relaxed, and reinvigorated and most of all—de-stressed.

If I haven't convinced you to try a class yet, read A Skeptic's Guide to Pilates or watch my Intro to Pilates video to learn more about the benefits and techniques. If you're ready for a taste, try my Pilates Abs Workout, Crunchless Core Workout or Pilates Hips & Thighs Workout videos in the privacy of your own home! It takes more than one try to truly understand the exercises and how to do them, so I always recommend trying something at least 3-5 times before you give up on it.

Have you tried Pilates? If so, what do you think about it? If not, are you willing to give it a chance now?


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Comments

  • 191
    I love pilates & have been taking classes for a few years now....it has done wonders for my posture & back pain (which doesn't exist anymore). I have gotten away from it over the holiday months, but am enjoying it again, but boy it's harder now!!! Got to get back in shape...when I go 2 times a week I feel the best benefit. - 1/9/2013   8:35:36 PM
  • 190
    I am definitely willing to give pilates a chance afte reading this. I want a stronger core and less lower back pain. - 1/3/2013   11:59:12 AM
  • 189
    I am definitely willing to give pilates a chance afte reading this. I want a stronger core and less lower back pain. - 1/3/2013   11:59:11 AM
  • 188
    Pilates is a Great Starter program for being sedentary. That's were I started. It was great! Will be going back to it soon! Try it! - 7/19/2012   11:53:57 AM
  • 187
    I tried pilates yestesrday for the first time. Great workout. - 6/13/2012   9:20:11 AM
  • 186
    I tried pilates years ago and saw great results. I think I will add it back into my workout. - 5/1/2012   1:52:05 PM
  • 185
    Being someone who runs and running was challenging for me at first I thought Pilates would be easy. That is not the case for sure! It's challenging and I like that. Keeps exercise interesting and definitely works muscles that don't get worked by running or walking. - 10/12/2011   8:33:44 PM
  • MARMOORE1
    184
    I Love Pilates and take classes twice a week. I do a combination of mat and reformer. I would recommend an instructor until you get familiar with the moves. A minor adjustment makes all the difference. - 4/30/2011   12:50:27 AM
  • 183
    I love Pilates! - 4/27/2011   12:00:12 AM
  • 182
    I just wrote a blog about Reformer Pilates - check it out at
    http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_p
    ublic_journal_individual.asp?blog_i
    d=4071933
    - 3/8/2011   11:24:03 PM
  • DR22DONUTS
    181
    I think Pilates is an important part of a comprehensive exercise regimen.
    I took semi-private Pilates classes, twice a week, with a classically-trained
    Pilate instructor. My problem area is my thighs and I can honestly say that PIlates has been THE most effective exercise in toning and reducing my thighs. My saddlebags were gone. Alas, the cost became prohibitive. I just purchased the HSN home Pilates trainer and I plan to begin using it this weekend. I am planning on slim thighs by my trip to Washington, DC at the end of May.
    Go PIlates! - 3/8/2011   8:14:46 PM
  • 180
    i've tried pilates and I'm not that interested in it. Its a good workout, but not for me. I guess it is true when people say "not every exercise was made for everyone"...and pilates happens to be one for me. - 2/25/2011   10:43:55 AM
  • 179
    I did try pilates a couple of times; didn't realize just how difficult it was. Would take the class if they had it at my gym. - 2/17/2011   8:23:40 AM
  • 178
    yes...I'm going to give it a try. Certainly can't hurt! Thanks! - 2/16/2011   3:53:10 PM
  • 177
    I think I am where you were as far as being bored. Thanks so much for the video, watching it gave me the nudge I needed to push through the winter blaahhs. - 1/13/2011   8:55:57 AM
  • RUELLE
    176
    I LOVE Pilates. It leaves me so energized and you get a really good workout. - 12/17/2010   8:57:42 AM
  • 175
    Loooove pilates! I just started getting into it again and love how it makes me feel so long & lean! I try to do it every day for *at least* 10 minutes as add-ons to my other workouts. - 10/7/2010   10:27:08 AM
  • SUGARSMOM2
    174
    would love to do this. I.think it would help. - 9/29/2010   5:17:13 PM
  • XHELD4ME
    173
    I LOVE Pilates! I started back working out on July 5,2010. I was a size 14. Today is September 24, 2010. I can now fit into a old pair of jean that is a size 9. I do 30 minutes of Pilates, along with other exercises, 6 days a week. Sometimes I skip the other exercises, but I NEVER skip Pilates. Love it, can't live without it! - 9/24/2010   5:43:27 PM
  • 172
    I like parts about posture, stretch & strength together, core and focus on the moment. Good posture and strong core are everything for me, I like to look good even though on days I think I'm fat. And like a multipurpose shampoo, pilate can do stretch AND strengthen the body at same time, that's like a big bonus while doing exercises! And it seems that pilate can help us to focus on current thing, instead of letting the mind thinking too much, wandering at all directions. I think we can incorporate this in our life :) - 8/13/2010   1:15:24 AM
  • 171
    I love the idea of what I've heard and read about Pilates - I'll give Coach Nicole's videos a watch, and see. Lower back pain and arthritis, watch out! - 6/23/2010   3:17:03 PM
  • 170
    If I had my choice of exercise programs, Pilates would absolutely be IT! Add a bit more cardio and life would be fabulous. Even on a bad day, I would feel so much better after my class.

    I've missed out since the club I attended closed. I'm trying to find a "fit" and way to get it on my schedule some place new.
    I've tried to tell others that EVERYONE can benefit: male or female, young or old, fit or fat. You start where you are and improve as you continue to work at it.

    I will say there is a difference in teachers. Some follow just a plain routine, others REALLY know how to bring in variety and extras to gain the benefit. I had the privilege of taking classes from a retired ballerine who knew the science of the exercises and was so very encouraging.

    I can say Pilates is worth it on all levels! - 6/23/2010   1:42:35 AM
  • 169
    would love to try, but would be to embarrassed to do in public.. might have to find a time to try at home when the hubby is not around. - 6/6/2010   5:07:51 PM
  • 168
    I love love love pilates. I thought it would be boring because I had tried yoga and it was a little too slow paced for my taste. Wow was pilates different. Yes it looks slow, but every move uses so many muscles and requires such concentration it is anything but boring. My first pilates videos were the ones on SP and also Katrina Pilates for the beginner, which I feel was a great intro both for learning the poses and breathing, as well as slowly building your muscles into the movements. - 6/4/2010   11:34:16 AM
  • MAKELE
    167
    I have been looking for something to consolidate my long lean look - I definately do not want to look bunched up. I was never interestested in Pilates becasue I thought it was like Yoga and I'm not into any meditation-type thing. Recently though, I started to read about it and I am definitely going to be giving it a try! - 4/12/2010   6:54:40 AM
  • 166
    i really like ellen barrett because she manages to incorporate standing and mat pilates along wit cardio and strength training all into one 45-minute workout. - 4/10/2010   7:41:34 PM
  • 165
    Just wanted to let the guys out there, even old guys like me, know that Pilates is a great workout for them also. You'll have to go to four or five classes before you get the moves down, but it really helps with flexibility and strengthening the abs. And if you think that it is easy, wait until you try to do the V-sit-up! - 4/9/2010   9:11:41 PM
  • BALLOR2
    164
    I will give Coach Nicole's video a try. I need to strengthen ab and back. Will let you know after two weeks! - 1/1/2010   5:27:24 PM
  • ALYZU1
    163
    I loved Pilates so much when I started it that I became an instructor. I teach on the mat and on the reformer, and am stronger than I have ever been, and without huge, bulky muscles. It was originally developed as a form of physical rehabilitation, so it's good for just about everyone. But you MUST let the instructor know about ANY physical issues you have! - 12/28/2009   1:14:57 PM
  • NEED2LOSE45
    162
    I have done pilates at home and loved it. I am trying to find out if the local YMCA has classes I can do there over the winter. I have also thought about trying yogalites which is yoga and pilates combined into one exercise. - 12/27/2009   10:50:34 AM
  • 161
    I always thought Pilates looked to difficult for me to do, so haven't tried it yet. - 12/14/2009   9:10:38 AM
  • 160
    I used to do Pilates at work (a few years ago) and will start again next week. Like you, at first I thought "where's the workout?". But when you REALLY do what you're supposed to do it's difficult. After I got used to some of the moves, though, I was still a little upset at how few of them you do. My problem is I can do some of the moves but others (coming from a lying-down position to a "V" shape - the one shown in the photo - for example - took me a LONG time to be able to do) eluded me after a while, still, so I couldn't do those correctly, and so I wasn't getting the 'whole' workout. Some things I can't do because of my back so I had to modify them. - 9/13/2009   7:56:14 AM
  • RKIRKWOOD1
    159
    i never thought i would even consider pilates with me being so far over weight the thought of laying on the floor and all the different types of moves they show I just dont think I could do it. However after reading this article I might reconsider maybe rethinking the possiblities. - 7/24/2009   10:26:05 PM
  • 158
    I did Pilates at a Pilates Center. They used the reformer. When I first started I could do nothing. Within a few weeks I really felt a difference. I loved it. I since moved to Florida and I cannot find any place that uses the Reformer. When I tried it with Pilates for Dummies - i couldn't do anything. I am going to try your beginning videos - because I know I will be embarrassed to go to a class and fall and flop all around. If i can get a start at home, then maybe I will be able to join a class. I do miss how it made me feel. - 7/23/2009   9:03:32 PM
  • 157
    It never interested me because I didn't know anything about it and thought it was just another exercise fad. I wish I'd paid attention. I have a slipped disk and my therapist says several of the exercises she's having me do are Pilates or Pilates based. I will be doing these for the rest of my life. - 6/13/2009   12:03:56 AM
  • 156
    i tried this and loved it right up to the point of having to rock on a broken coxxyx - 6/6/2009   5:10:20 AM
  • 155
    I'm glad that I found this article : ) !! I have never tried Pilates, but you have given me LOTS of reasons to do so. My core is extremely weak, and as a result I occasionally have lower back pain. Hearing that Pilates can strengthen my core and increase spinal mobility - big ++'s there.
    I will definitely check out your videos and read some more articles on Pilates. I'll also check to see if there are any classes for beginners starting up as well.
    Trying something new might be just what I need to increase my motivation so that I can start moving again (on a regular basis).

    - 6/5/2009   2:40:42 AM
  • 154
    my mom recently asked me why i do pilates as she heard from her co-workers that it was just like "stretching" and didn't do much. i laughed in her face!!! i told her if she had ever tried it she would know how hard pilates is! silly and their misconceptions! - 6/2/2009   9:40:56 PM
  • 153
    I have often considered Pilates, but have never taken a class. I was so focused on burning max calories to lose weight that I didn't realize the benefits of core strength training until much later into my journey. Now I love my strength training workouts and my coach often includes some Pilates moves in my workouts. Coach Nicole, you have inspired me and I am committing now to taking a class in the coming weeks. - 5/30/2009   5:38:19 PM
  • LAMARTIN2
    152
    Pilates is wonderful! I've always wanted a graceful dancers' body, but never had the money or time (or grace) for classes. Pilates really helped achieve that goal. Granted, I've never taken classes with apparatuses (as those found in studios), but I do have a Pilates ring at home and several videos that really help. Mari Windsor is a GREAT influence in the Pilates world - she has many videos ranging in levels of difficulty. - 5/30/2009   1:14:00 PM
  • INNEEDOFLESS
    151
    I really enjoy pilates on the ball. I do it at home about once a week. It's a very challenging and enjoyable workout that doesn't over-stress my joints. - 5/29/2009   1:34:41 AM
  • 150
    Pilates is wonderful! I wish I could go to one of Nicole's classes. - 5/28/2009   9:38:42 PM
  • 149
    I love Pilates! I do tend to get bored after awhile, but I always come back to it and wonder why I stopped. I have to work on not stopping!! - 5/28/2009   4:48:39 PM
  • 148
    What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga? - 5/28/2009   2:26:02 PM
  • PSYCHOGREENGIRL
    147
    i have tape of yogalates, which i think was okay, but my gut was getting in the way. when i shed some more of this tire, i think i'll be okay in that respect.

    but at the rec center i've been going to, they do have some classes, and i just have to remember when they are and such. i'm sporadic in my exercise times (depends how much i eat in the day and how busy i am), but i'm going to start giving it a shot. i'm never sure if i'm doing it right (and i did just get a mat last month that i might as well use). - 5/28/2009   1:04:54 PM
  • SVALENZANO
    146
    I started pilates on my own and was "dragged" to a yoga class by a friend about a year ago...Now one day a week yoga is not enough for me! Pilates I enjoy too..I love how your body is longer and more flexible. Your mind is also cleared as you "dump all of your negative energy onto the gym floor"...I like to incorporated either a pilates class or a yoga class each week into my excerise schedule to balance cardio and strenghth building...I have found that I miss the classes if I dont go one week!....Another plus is the toning and muscle building of my arms and legs that I have noticed....I have not gotten up the nerve yet to try the weight room and all those machines but its nice to know that you can get these benefits in other ways...Nothing challenges your muscles more than holding plank position for two minutes!
    - 5/28/2009   12:55:50 PM
  • STARWICAN
    145
    My daughter teaches Pilates here in Atlanta so I have a private teacher. I love how much core strength I have gained and how much stress I lost. - 5/28/2009   7:22:35 AM
  • MS_LNV
    144
    I love pilates - when I do it regularly I really notice a difference in my posture, having a strong core, flexibility and confidence. My favorite are the classes with the Reformer - which gives you the added benefit of resistance. If you have the opportunity, try a class with the Reformer! You'll love it! - 5/27/2009   9:34:06 PM
  • 143
    I tried pilates once. I dont think really knew what to do even with the instructions. It is something I will definitely try again - 5/27/2009   6:13:41 PM
  • 142
    Love doing pilates.. Its a GREAT way to end your workout!! - 5/27/2009   4:52:32 PM

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