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

  • QUILTINGLADY3
    141
    I started taking pilates a few months ago although right now I've taken a hiatus because of upper back problems. I have enjoyed doing the program very much and look forward to getting back to it. I also do aqualates once a week which I like even more. I can really feel that I have worked my abs when I take this class. - 5/27/2009   3:09:03 PM
  • MSJAYY
    140
    I took a beginners pilates class last month. Talk about a workout! My intention is to work at least one class/week into my schedule - 5/27/2009   1:03:57 PM
  • 139
    I have been practicing Pilates for 5 years and become an instructor last year. I have noticed a decrease in migraines, better digestion, improved lung capacity, better posture and I handle stress better because I remember to breathe. The benefits are mental and physical. - 5/27/2009   12:41:17 PM
  • 138
    you just inspired me to give pilates another try :) - 5/27/2009   9:07:55 AM
  • 137
    I have tried, and love, pilates! I take a class at least once a week and it does everything mentioned. I love how my abs feel stronger and more pulled in even when I'm not focusing on them. It's also a great stress relief from the day. - 5/27/2009   6:45:53 AM
  • 136
    I love Pilates but don't do it often enough. A friend of the family has MS (11 plaques!!) but is still walking, mostly thanks to Pilates! Thanks, Coach Nicole, for putting short Pilates videos out there on Spark- they are great! - 5/27/2009   5:18:45 AM
  • 135
    A reminder to me I need to get back to pilates. In fact I think I will go do my tape right now! - 5/27/2009   1:06:55 AM
  • 134
    I have really enjoyed the small amount of pilates that I have done, but believe that it is very important to be sure that pilates is done in the proper technique to be safe and gain the benefits of these exercises / activities. This was emphasized by the instructor of my intro to pilates course, and i think it is key to really enjoying these activities!! - 5/27/2009   12:21:15 AM
  • 133
    I've always liked Pilates but haven't spent much time doing them. I'm starting to do them again, and loving them even more. My condition is muscle related, so it's fantastic to give them a good focused intense workout - 5/26/2009   11:33:30 PM
  • 132
    Totally LOVE IT! I had a dance coach in college that would use Pilates exercisess mixed with ballet to do our floor warmups before we hit the bar. It always made me feel more pliable when we got down to the pure ballet - like my body was just more awake and ready. My classes with Holly (The instructor that used Pilates too) were always stronger, more successful ones than when Joy did our classes and I think it was largely because of this extra little warm up. NOW I love it because of the multitasking aspect and just that it continues to make me feel good. - 5/26/2009   11:01:15 PM
  • 131
    I have taken a couple of classes and have several workout videos (DVDs) - I really like it - but am not consisitent with it right now - 5/26/2009   10:22:52 PM
  • KEYLADY78
    130
    I have never tried Pilates. Reading the article, and then the comments, however, makes me want to try. I will have to search for a basic Pilates DVD. thanks for the motivation.
    - 5/26/2009   8:19:24 PM
  • AUTCODJADCAL
    129
    I have tried Pilates and it seems so hard. Then again I always think that if I am not doing it exactly like the model or for the duration I'm not doing myself any good. I do know that the one night I did it, I was so sore the next day and for a couple days after that. I have heard that it is good for me but it is so hard. Now don't get me wrong I am a hard worker, I go to the gym 4-5 times a week at least for an hour each time.

    I wonder if it is because I am so tall. I'm not too tall though, only 5'9" and 218 lbs. I don't know. Any tips for me trying to get into the swing of Pilates?

    Find my homepage and contact me there.

    Jenn - 5/26/2009   7:22:44 PM
  • 128
    LOVE LOVE LOVE Pilates! :D

    I am a fairly recent convert, started going to a class weekly at my gym this year, probably on February-March? Anyway -- I really could tell a difference in my running posture and stamina for maintaining a good running posture. The first few classes my abs were sore for DAYS after class. Now the burn is less, but I'm telling you your 12 minute Pilates Abs Video KILLED ME the other day. :D FABULOUS. HAHAHAHA. :D I recently checked out a Pilates On the Ball book w/ DVD from the library and I'm looking forward to checking that out as well. - 5/26/2009   7:20:59 PM
  • 127
    I always knew I wanted to try for all the right reasons, but this article really captivated me. I am looking for a class now!!!! - 5/26/2009   7:13:01 PM
  • BIYA36
    126
    I used to do Pilates quite a bit, at least three times a week. I was having lots of low back/leg pain and within a few weeks I felt much better, my posture was also better.

    I really, really need to get back to pilates. I do love it, but I can almost always find an excuse not to exercise. And it seems like everytime I start pilates again it gets more difficult.

    I would encourage anyone to try it -- give it a few weeks, you'll definately feel/see a difference. I heard they are encouraging people with fibromyalgia to do pilates. There something to strengthening your core.

    I'll do pilates tonight -- anyone up for a challenge? - 5/26/2009   7:00:08 PM
  • 125
    I have ridiculously long legs & have always wondered whether they were the reason that doing Pilates for some months, following video instruction, GAVE ME low-back pain. Once I stopped the Pilates, the pain went away. My hypothesis is that my long legs don't balance with my (relatively) short core in the straight-leg raises that Pilates requires.

    It may be that I could do Pilates with personal expert instruction, but I certainly won't try those leg lifts on my own again. When I do the short Pilates videos for the Sweatsuit to Swimsuit challenge, I modify that part. - 5/26/2009   5:25:44 PM
  • GMARLENE
    124
    I have been going to a Pilate's studio regularly for the last 2 1/2 years. It's been the only form of exercise that I have consistently stayed with. I love the studio environment as you have different classs options and the instructor's really know what they are doing. This will be a lifelong practice for me now. - 5/26/2009   4:39:32 PM
  • 123
    I have tried Pilates, and always loved it. However, I've only been able to do videos, and quite frankly, I'm not sure they are so beneficial. I'm always afraid that I will do it incorrectly, and make things worse rather than better. Now, I live about 30 miles from the nearest gym, and even if I could afford it, really can't go that far for instruction. If anyone has any suggestions about what might work, I would love to hear it. I'm riddled with arthritis, and in constant pain. If I could alleviate that, I would be eternally grateful.

    Kayne - 5/26/2009   4:01:45 PM
  • 122
    I tried pilates once years ago and my ab muscles hurt for days. I enjoyed it but just haven't got to another class. I may try the video one day but my computer is in a little room so I don't really have room to lay down and watch it. - 5/26/2009   3:38:01 PM
  • 121
    I've started using a Pilates dvd by Winsor Pilates. It's a lot harder than it looks, and I can tell that my core strength is getting stronger. Just love doing Pilates! - 5/26/2009   3:30:20 PM
  • 120
    I have done pilates when I was younger...but several years ago I bought a Pilate Reformer and used it faithfully for years...it needs repaired so I don't use it now. It made a big difference in my body and how I moved. I had some problems with my hip joint that went away. My posture, I didn't wake up with a backache every morning, and most of all my blood preasure dropped several points. That is not everything but for time and space I will quit. I miss my pilates reformer...it just helps you do what you can't do on your own and also helps you to stay in true form so you can't do the exercises wrong. I loved it. - 5/26/2009   3:20:33 PM
  • HEIDILAKE68
    119
    I am a true believer in that Pilates works. I had done various Pilates videos off and on, then two years ago we moved and have been living in an RV since then. I brought my videos and really did them faithfully. I have to say, I was worried about having so little space to exercise, but I toned up and fit into jeans I hadn't fit into in a while. A lady at work was moving and had a "Malibu Pilates" bench and videos for sale. I bought that from her and did it a few times, but couldn't figure out how to fold it up and just quit bringing it in and out of the RV to do it. This winter I got lazy and didn't do anything for months. This weekend I got out the Malibu Pilates bench again and spent some time learning how to use it. I can already feel a difference in my abs and I think my tummy seems flatter. I folded it up, it's very easy, and am keeping it tucked away to use as often as possible. Another thing I love about Pilates - I can get up and just work out in my PJ's - don't really need shoes or special workout wear. - 5/26/2009   3:02:49 PM
  • MISSNATASCHA
    118
    I take Proformer Pilates classes and I love it. While I haven't lost any weight doing it yet, I've definitely toned up and every class gives me a little more confidence. I highly recommend taking it as a class with an instructor who properly explains how to do each move correctly and how to breathe during each exercise. - 5/26/2009   2:25:53 PM
  • 117
    I have been attending Pilates classes for three years now, three times a week. All those things written in the above article are absolutely true! and much more! I wouldn't imagine of stopping Pilates no matter what! Pilates have made the change for me! - 5/26/2009   12:19:50 PM
  • 116
    I was familiar with Pilates prior to becoming a Sparkie, but had never seriously checked out what it was all about. I'm into my 4th week of Boot Camp and this is when I was introduced to the benefits and techniques of Pilates. I think I will be continuing to use the Pilates BC videos as part of my fitness program. - 5/26/2009   10:32:52 AM
  • 115
    I like pilates...I've done Some of Coach Nicole's videos and boy does it make you sweat and it's also really challenging. - 5/26/2009   9:47:25 AM
  • DMADELSEN
    114
    I am a Pilates trainer and absolutely love it! The mat provides you with the awareness of how your body can move and the strength that can be attained. The Reformer is an outstanding piece of equipment that allows you to go even farther, challenge your muscles and your mind. It is slow controlled movement, matching breath with movement. As far as how hard do your work, you decide! Think of it this way, go to the edge of the cliff but don't jump off. Respect you body by only pushing as hard as the muscles can accept. I agree with one of the other comments, Pilates should be taught by a certified trained instructor. The chances of getting hurt increase when someone is teaching but doesn't know all the ins and outs of pilates. Balanced Body is a great training organization and if someone has completed their training program you know they have a complete knowledge in what they are teaching.
    Enjoy! - 5/26/2009   9:34:25 AM
  • 113
    I've been using some Yoga/Pilates combo DVD's since the very beginning of my transformation and love it. The challenge for me is to do it correct...this helps keep the workouts fresh.

    It has also helped keep me mostly pain free from arthritis without having to take any medication for the last four years. - 5/26/2009   8:29:01 AM
  • BALLROOM16
    112
    Stott is definitely "regular Pilates." Stott is a Canadian company that does training and sells Pilates equipment. You can be certain that you're getting an expert trainer when you see the Stott name. - 5/26/2009   7:35:47 AM
  • 111
    I tried Pilates using the Reformer and I loved it. So relaxing; yet engaging. I will give Coach Nicole's Pilates videos a try today. - 5/26/2009   7:16:29 AM
  • TUBETHIN
    110
    Hi from an "over 65 year old" pilates fan. Had to chime in since I've been a Pilates participant for over a year and a half now. I've hated working out at the gym with all the machines but never lost weight. I turned to private Pilates lessons on the reformer. Heaven. Who could have guessed that an older adult could change their body image? I lost weight almost immediately. Someone said pilates can't make your legs grow. But it does reshape your legs so that it appears much leaner. If you could only feel my hamstrings. My ankles are very strong and flexible. Previously I would often trip and fall with a twisted ankle. Now when I step on an uneven curb I can right myself or if I fall I get up immediately with no injuries or pain. This is huge for an older person. I am a working teacher who could pull a cart as I go classsroom to classroom but now I find it so much easier to carry my load in a big bag that I throw over my shoulders. Pilates has truly reshaped my body in a lean and oh, can I show my muscles that I've never ever known I've had before. - 5/25/2009   1:34:35 PM
  • TUBETHIN
    109
    Hi from an "over 65 year old" pilates fan. Had to chime in since I've been a Pilates participant for over a year and a half now. I've hated working out at the gym with all the machines but never lost weight. I turned to private Pilates lessons on the reformer. Heaven. Who could have guessed that an older adult could change their body image? I lost weight almost immediately. Someone said pilates can't make your legs grow. But it does reshape your legs so that it appears much leaner. If you could only feel my hamstrings. My ankles are very strong and flexible. Previously I would often trip and fall with a twisted ankle. Now when I step on an uneven curb I can right myself or if I fall I get up immediately with no injuries or pain. This is huge for an older person. I am a working teacher who could pull a cart as I go classsroom to classroom but now I find it so much easier to carry my load in a big bag that I throw over my shoulders. Pilates has truly reshaped my body in a lean and oh, can I show my muscles that I've never ever known I've had before. - 5/25/2009   1:34:33 PM
  • 108
    I love Pilates - have been doing it on and off for years. We have a great instructor where I go who does a wonderful job. - 5/24/2009   10:16:07 AM
  • 107
    I exercise at home and because I have always had plenty to do, I have not purchased many exercise DVD's. I have started trying SP videos as I explore the site and through these videos I have been introduced to Pilates. What fun! I have found Pilates to be very challenging, beneficial and interesting. Thanks for broadening my world! - 5/23/2009   9:10:13 PM
  • 106
    I love Pilates-Have my own Reformer-Have done it for years. - 5/23/2009   2:50:47 PM
  • 105
    I've always loved pilate's. I love the fact that it strengthens the core while correcting posture. Most of my weight is in the torso, the worst kind of fat storage. So....... BRING IT! - 5/23/2009   2:10:24 AM
  • 104
    YES! I love pilates. I have the DVD "10 Minute Solutions" for Pilates and Resistance bands. It is amazing. And it has done wonders for my posture. I am more conscious about it and feel so great! - 5/22/2009   11:28:18 PM
  • 103
    I have taken Pilates, loved the classes. My core muscles became a lot stronger in short amount of time. A person can get a lot out of Pilates if they are willing to stick with it and really be motivated.
    I stopped taking the class at my gym when the certified instructor left and they hired a non-certified instructor. So much can go wrong when not doing a move correctly that I don't think it is safe taking classes from "just anybody." The owner of my gym doesn't follow that line of thinking, unfortunately. I miss the class! - 5/22/2009   4:51:14 PM
  • VIKESFAN53
    102
    I've often thought this may be something I'd be interested in but was too lazy to get to the point of doing it. I'm moving to Austin, TX in July and AM PLANNING on getting into a Pilates class at that time. I thought this article was great - thank you! - 5/22/2009   10:29:31 AM
  • 101
    I'm a big pilates fan. I herniated a disk in my back five years ago and Pilates has been a huge help in recuperating from that. It is something I can do without worrying about injuring my back further and the exercises are so easy to modify that on worse days I can still have a good workout even if my back is a bit pinchy.
    But what I love the most is that after I do Pilates for two weeks I always start getting compliments for having lost weight--even if I haven't lost any! - 5/22/2009   4:19:08 AM
  • 100
    I can't say enough good about Pilates. Most all the positive comments I fully agree with. My only serious regret is finding an affordable class once again. I have lost so much since the gym closed where I participated. (I have no working space at home to use DVD's.) The class really helped me stay motivated to keep at it. There never was a time when I got myself to class that I ever regreted the effort! Here's wishing for Pilates once again!! - 5/22/2009   3:09:57 AM
  • 99
    My first experience with Pilates was in conjunction with my ballet classes which began when I was 10. After barre, came Pilates, both with and without a reformer. Over the years I came to know how lucky I was. It did strengthen every inch of your core, prevented a lot of back problems and was amazing in developing flexibility and balance.

    Some years later I gave up the age old dream of dancing professionally but I did continue with ballet classes and very often kept going with Pilates separate and apart from those classes. I watched over the years as Pilates was molded as nearly a mat only exercise, then came other variations like Power Pilates and the like.

    If you don't like to exercise per se, but know you need to....Pilates is certainly one tool to put in your resource box. You will over time stand up taller without noticing you are doing it, "engage" muscles, and depending on the type of pilates, gain strength in your arms and legs as well. It's a gradual and "process" oriented exercise....rather than a quick see results but it is fun, relaxing and you fill find yourself feeling wonderful afterwards. - 5/22/2009   2:23:55 AM
  • THEISLANDS4ME
    98
    I have always wanted to try Pilates and I will now that I have watched the video. - 5/22/2009   12:04:32 AM
  • 97
    I love pilates and yoga although I feel as though I have exercised more with pilates. My employer offered a "Yogalates" class last fall during lunch that was a wonderful combination. I would love to find a DVD that combines the two. Anyone know of any? - 5/21/2009   10:16:14 PM
  • 96
    I have done pilates a few times on the reformer (in studio) and love it. I was actually looking a place up last night. Is the "Exercise God" trying to tell me something? - 5/21/2009   9:49:27 PM
  • 95
    I took a Pilates class during high school. We were able to choose what we wanted to do and I chose that because I thought it would be easy... boy was I wrong. It's nice to incorporate into my routine because it helps my muscle recover a little better.

    I, too, am interested in the difference between mat pilates and the fancy machines. - 5/21/2009   7:29:28 PM
  • 94
    So is there a benefit to using the fancy pilates contraption (is it called a reformer?) over just doing mat pilates? What are the different kinds of pilates? There is a studio near where I'm moving that does STOTT pilates? Is that different than regular pilates? - 5/21/2009   6:28:17 PM
  • MAGS05
    93
    I have a couple of pilates dvd's. I use them in the winter months. Believe me it does strengthen the core and back. I prefer the pilates over yoga any day. - 5/21/2009   6:23:48 PM
  • 92
    I really need to take up Pilates. I definitely can benefit from it.
    Thanks for the article and information. - 5/21/2009   5:23:18 PM

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