Pilates was originally developed by Joseph Pilates, who dedicated his entire life to improving physical and mental health during the early 20th Century. Today, Pilates is a well-known exercise and lifestyle across the globe and is a popular choice of exercise for hundreds of thousands of people. In fact, the number of Americans who practice it regularly has exploded by over sixfold from 1991 to 2005 (from 1.7 million to 11 million). And it is still increasing to this day.
But have you ever thought about its benefits, and what exactly Pilates is good for?
Below we have listed 40 health benefits of Pilates.
- Great for killer abs and core strength
Pilates targets your core musclse (or ‘powerhouse’ as it is called in the Pilates world), which has effects on your lower back, abdomen, hip and pelvic muscles. Not only is a strong core essential for exercises, it is also essential for everyday tasks such as carrying heavy items and picking up your shopping. Especially if you try to carry all the grocery bags in one go.
As well as helping you to better your body frame, core training also helps to achieve those flat abs that we all crave for.
- Good workout for your entire body
Even though the main focus of Pilates is on developing your core strength, it also plays a part in developing a full-body workout. This ensures that no specific muscle is overdeveloped or underdeveloped, leading to a leaner body you are looking for.
- Perfect rehab for back pain
It is not always guaranteed, and certainly not a quick fix, but many people have seen their back pain gradually disappear after practicing Pilates. There is even one case study where a sufferer of back pain visited 50 specialists, only to find that Pilates has helped to cure her back pain.
- Gives you a great backside
You will not find specific exercises which solely benefit your backside. But, with whole-body Pilates workout, a major bonus is that every single exercise involves your backside in some way or form.
- Improves your posture
Poor posture forms as a result of bad habit such as slouching at your desk and chair, which can eventually cause back ache, neck ache, headache, etc. The bad habits will result in asymmetrical muscle development, where some muscle become weaker than others. Pilates can help to strengthen those underdeveloped muscles, and get rid of bad posture.
- Places no pressure on your knees and joints
Since Pilates consists of slow and controlled movement, there is minimal impact on your joints. This is naturally ideal for those who cannot (or do not) want to take part in high-impact sports and exercises.
- An exercise for everyone
It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, fit or out of shape, flexible or not, Pilates is one of a handful of exercises which can benefit everyone.
- Boosts your mental health and improves focus and concentration
Pilates helps to create a body and mind relationship, where concentration, focus and meditation come together to help boost your mental health.
An important part of Pilates is that it pushes you to focus on your body, full breathing, and how they all work and move together. It is with focus and concentration that you are more likely to benefit from the exercise.
- Improves your sports performance
Many men and women find that their body are misaligned due to the one-sided nature of certain sports e.g. swinging a tennis racket or golf clubs.
As Pilates helps to balance your body, develop muscular symmetry and align your posture, sportsmen and women find that Pilates can help to reduce the likelihood of injuries.
- Increases your flexibility
It was Joseph Pilates who said: “true flexibility can be achieved only when all muscles are uniformly developed.”
So rather than saying you can’t do Pilates because you are not flexible enough, you should actually participate in Pilates exercises to help improve your flexibility.
- Improves your sex life
There are several exercises which mimic the similar action of the Kegel exercise (which strengthens the pelvic floor muscles and consequently supports the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum).
Exercises which involve lifting your pelvic floor strengthen those muscles, which can improve your experience in the bedroom.
- Improves your blood circulation
The more flexible you are, the better your blood circulation is, as blood can flow more freely through your body. This can help to promote cell growth, organ function and gives you healthier skin, and as Joseph calls it, for “bodily house cleaning”.
- Makes you more aware of your body
The heavy focus on breathing, your posture and controlled movement, will translate into your everyday life as you become more aware of how you are treating your body. This could be from basic things like sitting on your sofa to picking up your shopping bags.
Pilates also teaches you to have symmetry and coordination, to hold in your navel, square your shoulders and be aware of your posture. This will all come naturally over time as you become more aware of your body.
- Can help you learn and think faster while improving memory
In 2013 a study was carried out in China where scientists measured changes in brain activity during Pilates exercises. They discovered an increase in the brain’s alpha peak power after 10 weeks of Pilates training, which plays a part in your ability to think and solve problems. This may be a useful way of helping people with brain-degenerative diseases and cognitive dysfunctions that affect learning, memory and thinking.
- Gives you better spinal health & strength
A study in 2014 has discovered that there is a link between Pilates exercises and increased spinal alignment. The conditioning of the muscles around the core and back helps to promote better spinal health.
- Prevents the risk of injuries
Similar to point 9, you are less likely to obtain any risks of receiving injuries through regular Pilates. This applies to everyone, from the elderly to professional dancers.
- Gives you strength without the bulky muscles
You are more likely to associate Pilates with a long, lean and toned body, as you don’t see bulky muscle as a result of it. This is due to how the exercises elongate and stretch your muscles, which plays a important part in toning your body.
- Gentle but challenging
Don’t be fooled that many exercises are in reclining or sitting positions. Nor the fact that it is a low-impact form of exercise that doesn’t put pressure on your joints. Pilates is a perfectly gentle and safe exercise for everyone, but still challenging enough, as there are categories ranging from beginner to advanced.
As the challenge and intensity increases, your body adapts to the exercises, and your body conditioning improves.
- Understand your body’s limits to test yourself without causing pain
Pilates does not encourage you to compete with other participants to “win”. It is more about understanding your body’s limit, and knowing where your limit is. With regular exercises, you will gradually notice that your threshold increases without any pain at all.
- Minimizes pain that is associated with Alzheimer’s
Those who are suffering from pain linked to Alzheimer’s may find that the low-impact form of Pilates exercises can help to minimize the pain by promoting the mind-body awareness.
- Beneficial both during and after pregnancy
One of the great benefits of Pilates is how it can help with spinal and pelvic alignment. This is particularly beneficial for pregnant women and women who have just given birth, as the physical changes that come with pregnancy can put a strain on your alignment.
During pregnancy, Pilates can help to maintain your level of fitness, strengthen your pelvic muscles and also promote efficient body mechanics. These are ideal as your body prepares for the strain of childbirth.
During childbirth, the strengthened pelvic floor will also make it easier for mothers-to-be to give birth.
And after the pregnancy, Pilates can help you to recover and return your pre-pregnancy body.
- Can assist with weight loss
Many people have wondered whether Pilates is good for weight loss. Some studies have shown that it can certainly help with that, particularly as Pilates helps the body in a variety of different ways listed here to bring a healthier and more well-rounded lifestyle. Not to mention creating lean muscle mass.
- Helps to reduce stress and anxiety
Tension can get built up in the muscles, from for example reading in a curled position. Pilates helps, through gentle stretching and conditioning, to metabolize the stress hormones that are built up. This means that muscles will relax, leaving you feeling much less stressed.
- You can do it at home
If there are no Pilates studios nearby, there are several options for those who are keen to practice at home.
Thanks to technology, some participants “attend” classes online via video calling platforms with a professional instructor on the other side.
There are also online subscriptions like PilatesAnytime where there are workouts for all levels. In addition, videos can be found on YouTube for any level of Pilates. This is ideal if you want to choose when you want to exercise, and at your own pace.
- Boosts your stamina
Through regular and repetitive sequences of exercises, your body is adapting and gradually learning to endure with such exercises for longer each time as your endurance improves.
- Gives you a lean, tall body…
We have mentioned earlier that Pilates does not give you bulky muscle. The elongation and stretching of your muscles are more likely to promote a lean, tall body.
- …which can consequently help your body to digest your food easier
A good digestion process is a critical part of your health and wellbeing, and some people are not aware that exercise can help improve your digestion.
Thanks to the unique moves that are not available elsewhere, Pilates can help to stimulate the digestive system through various ways. These include assisting to increase vital fluids, deep massage which affects internal organs, and metabolic increase.
- Versatile and very adaptable to your needs
Thanks to the variety of ranges in difficulty and also the array of poses, it is easy to find Pilates exercises that are just right for you. And it is also means you won’t feel left out from the rest of the class.
- Raises your energy level
As you are learning to improve your breathing technique, improve your blood circulation throughout your body, increase your flexibility and improve your spinal health, Pilates will make you feel good and naturally boost your energy levels.
- Helps to cut down on body fat and lower cholesterol levels
The added effects that come with having a leaner body mass, the higher your metabolism becomes which helps you burn more fat.
Thankfully, Pilates can help you to achieve that lean body by toning your body and increasing lean muscle. This will gradually help you to lose weight easier (along with a healthy diet and regular exercise).
- Plus-size individuals can participate
We have mentioned several times that Pilates is for anyone, regardless of your age, fitness level, and your pain threshold.
It is also suitable for plus-size participants, and we have a great example of one such Pilate’s student who at first questioned Pilates, but ended up enjoying it.
- Releases anti-aging stress
Like many forms of exercise, practicing Pilates will help to release anti-ageing, stress-relieving chemicals called Endorphins. These are the natural feel-good boosters, which will leave you feeling “naturally high” and boost your mood.
- Learn how to move efficiently
For some people, modern living and occupational hazards mean that we forget how to move efficiently and this can put a strain on our body. Pilates is a great way to “re-educate” our bodies on how to move efficiently and create balance in your body.
- Lowers blood pressure
Another health benefit of Pilates is how it can contribute to lowering your blood pressure. A recent study in 2015 has shown that mat Pilates “reduces clinical and ambulatory blood pressure”, and interestingly is a great non-drug treatment for hypertension.
- Assists with recovery from injuries
Joseph Pilates used his techniques to rehabilitate injured soldiers during WWI.
Today, if you search for ‘Pilates injuries recovery’, and you will see hundreds of businesses providing similar injury rehabilitation services through Pilates.
- Strengthens your immune system
Just like many gentle exercises which encourage muscle movement and breathing, Pilates can play a part in boosting your immune system. Hopefully, this will help to reduce the number of sniffles you get during the winter.
- Improves your breathing irregularity
There is such a big focus on your breathing and blood circulation, that it will gradually help to improve any breathing irregularity that you may have.
- Helps to reduce the number of headaches you get
On top of back ache and neck ache, poor posture can play a big part in headaches and, sometimes, migraines. In the short term, you may get a complete, or temporary, relief from it. For the long-term, the aim is to improve your posture which can consequently help to prevent the occurrence of headaches.
- Can help with your sleeping and reduces insomnia
One study has found that regular Pilates can help with your sleeping pattern. A good night’s sleep was an important part of living for Joseph Pilates and this will have a natural knock-on effect, such as a better mood and more energy.
- Alleviates the fear of falling for the elderly
Fear of falling is a major health risk for elderly people, not only because of the physical risk but how it might affect their quality of life. A study has linked Pilates to, not only improving the balance of older women (amongst many other benefits mentioned above), but also reduced their fear of falling.
In the words of Joseph Pilates at the age of 86 in 1965:
Is Pilates a good workout? Well, perhaps the benefits listed above will further prove to you that Pilates is more than just a good workout. If you want to read more, head on over to our post on popular quotes by Joseph Pilates.
If you know any doubters out there about Pilates, and you want to prove people wrong about Pilates, feel free to share this article. Otherwise, or in addition, you should consider treating yourself to a beneficial Pilates holiday, and experience some of those amazing health benefits yourself.
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- Our list of benefits is not from writers with medical or fitness qualifications
- Always seek professional medical advice before taking up a new exercise program
- Pilates is not a substitute for professional medical advice, or a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle