What is Pilates?
The Pilates system of exercise is based upon low impact resistance and can be either mat work type exercises or equipment based. Pilates focuses on building what is termed core stability. Exercising on Pilates equipment is more appropriate for anyone wanting to address certain medical conditions. Pilates was developed by German born fitness trainer Joseph Pilates (1880 - !967) as an exercise method to improve posture, correct muscle imbalances and to tone the body. If you have a health condition or an injury you should seek advice from your GP or a health specialist before starting any exercise programme, not just Pilates.
Who is Pilates for?
Pilates can be suitable for all age groups, all fitness levels and for beginners. For those with certain health conditions equipment based Pilates is very safe as the equipment provides support for the body during the exercises.
The health benefits of Pilates
Pilates is transformative and the benefits of the exercises can be many and varied. Clients make Pilates their exercise of choice to correct poor posture, improve balance, increase overall strength and flexibility and to reform the mobility and the support of joints including the spine. Equipment based Pilates can can improve bone mineral density so it is beneficial for osteoporosis. Pilates is medically approved and is often recommended for rehabilitation.
Can Pilates reduce back pain?
There is much evidence that Pilates can reduce chronic low back pain. Pilates exercises target particular muscle groups so as to strengthen and to optimise the recruitment of the muscles that support the spine and particularly the low back. This can result in a noticeable reduction in pain levels.
Is Pilates safe?
Because the exercises are low impact Pilates is considered to be very safe. Injuries sustained on the Pilates reformer for instance are indeed very rare. If you have any concerns you are probably better working to an individual programme of reformer based exercises where you can progress at your own pace rather than in a large group. Again you should check with your GP or health professional if you have a health condition.
Reformer or mat classes?
Before deciding on whether to opt for the reformer or Mat classes you should consider the following;
Mat classes are generally performed on a mat which is laid on the floor and classes should be limited to no more than 12. Exercises are performed standing, sitting, kneeling and lying either on your back, side or front. If you cannot easily switch between these positions or might not be able to maintain the pace of the group, you would probably be better exercising on equipment.
Of the various pieces of Pilates equipment, the reformer is the best known and most versatile. It offers many advantages and benefits, most particularly allowing you to perform those exercises that are relevant to your own condition or any part of your body, rather than a one size fits all large group class. Both stretching and strengthening exercises on the reformer are controlled so there is virtually no risk of injury making it particularly suitable for beginners.
The importance of core
The importance of core strength cannot be emphasised enough and is fundamental to Pilates. The Pilates exercises target several groups of muscles which collectively are referred to as your core. These groups of muscles work together to support your back and particularly your low back.
What should I wear?
You should wear clothing that allows freedom of movement. A tracksuit bottom and T shirt or leggings, shorts or tank top are all suitable. As a beginner you will also need socks.
Your Pilates Goal
You should set yourself a Pilates goal. Whether you want to improve your overall strength or address a specific issue, your goal should be to make measurable gains and then to maintain those gains. Pilates can help you to improve and it can then help you to hold onto that improvement.