5 great benefits of Pilates and why you should try it

Pilates is a gentle, yet challenging form of exercise that can increase your fitness levels. There are many great benefits of Pilates, yet surprisingly, many people still do not understand what Pilates is. Pilates is an excellent form of exercise that helps you build strength, and increases mobility and flexibility. Pilates can be carried out on a mat, or with equipment, ranging from balls, hoops, and bands, to large reformer equipment. It is an adaptable form of exercise that is suitable for beginners and advanced practitioners alike. Pilates is known for exercises that focus on the core and for improving posture and alignment, as well as building a strong and fit body.

“You will feel better in ten sessions, look better in twenty sessions, and have a completely new body in thirty sessions.”

Joseph Pilates
Woman doing pilates - benefits of pilates

What are 5 benefits of Pilates?

It mobilises your body

Pilates can help improve the range of motion in stiff joints and muscles. It promotes stretching and lengthening of the muscles and using the joints in correct alignment. Many people lead sedentary lifestyles; sitting for long periods of time, and following familiar movement patterns every day. Over time, our range of motion can reduce and muscles can contract. Pilates helps us to work through unfamiliar movement patterns to redress imbalances in the muscles and joints.

It increases your flexibility

Alongside stiff and contracted muscles, our fascia – the connective tissue within our body can become tight and stiff. Stress and lack of movement can reduce our flexibility, meaning twisting, bending, and stretching all become more difficult, even painful. Pilates promotes gentle stretches and movements that help balance shortened and lengthened muscles. It is also relaxing to help reduce the impact of stress on the muscles and connective tissues.

It challenges and strengthens your core

Pilates promotes core strength. Your core is made up of a number of muscles in the abdomen, glutes, back, and legs. Some muscles are engaged regularly and others sit deeper and are sometimes underutilized. A prime example is a lack of gluteal engagement. The glutes are large powerful muscles, capable of assisting you to walk, run, jump and lift heavy weight, yet many people disengage their glutes. This shifts the work to smaller, less capable muscles – this often leads to stress on joints and aches and pains.

Learning to engage your core muscles helps you to be stronger and more powerful. It helps you to move in better alignment and ease the stress on smaller muscles that often cause knee, hip, and back pain.

It improves your posture and alignment

Posture and alignment are seldom considered in day-to-day life. Yet when you begin to pay attention, there are so many people who suffer from the effects of a lifetime of poor posture and alignment.

Posture and alignment are important because it helps your joints, muscles, and connective tissues to work together. If one part of the body becomes misaligned, it can radiate to other parts of the body causing issues with mobility, and movement and increasing the risk of injury.

Repetitive activities and posture patterns can contribute to misalignment, especially those that we adopt during our working day. Take office workers as an example – often sitting in a slouched position, with the arms stretched out forwards toward the keyboard. People who sit for many hours like this are likely to have a weak and tight chest because it is caved inward. They may have a rounded upper back, because it is pushed out. They almost always take on a forward neck position too. The slouched position and tight chest can also impact breathing quality, as the compressed ribcage cannot fully expand. This is a position that office workers are inadvertently training into for eight or more hours every day!

It promotes functional movement

Functional movement patterns are movements that we use throughout our lives. For example squatting to lower our body, hinging at the hip to bend forward, and rotating to reach behind us. These movement patterns can become dysfunctional and impact our joints, muscles, and connective tissues, especially when we are moving with poor posture and alignment. Many people have hurt their lower backs when they fail to hinge at the hip or find it hard to squat because their knees hurt. Pilates helps to make these functional movement patterns a habit by training awareness of moving with the correct form. Whether you are squatting a heavy barbell or reaching the lower shelf at the supermarket, the correct form is the same.

What does a Pilates workout do?

The principles of Pilates are concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing. These principles help to connect body and mind and keep your thoughts present by focusing on the movement and control of your body.

When carried out correctly, with these principles, Pilates challenges the body.

Although Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise, the movements are carried out with correct alignment and posture. The engagement of the core muscles throughout and breathing pattern helps to stabilize the core while delivering oxygen to the muscles.

What kind of exercise is Pilates?

Pilates offers a mix of bodyweight strength training, stretching, mobilization and can be performed at a faster pace to become a cardio workout. Pilates is adaptable because it is based upon a set of principles with movements that can be regressed or progressed accordingly. This makes Pilates ideal for people of different fitness levels and abilities, while, helping to improve imbalances in alignment, posture, and muscle strength.

A Pilates session can help you to connect your mind and your body. You learn to feel where some muscles may be used more than others or how your day-to-day posture and alignment are affecting how your body functions. Quite often, aches and pains, stiffness, and poor mobility not caused by injury can be down to daily lifestyle habits or activities that create poor alignment and posture.

The principles of Pilates can also be used in other forms of exercise, for example, lifting weights with form and establishing a strong core as a foundation for lifting heavy weights. Pilates can help improve core strength, balance, and mobility in various sports too.

Is Pilates good for weight loss?

Any exercise or increase in activity will aid weight loss, as it increases the number of calories burned. However, weight loss is best achieved through a healthy eating plan that creates a calorie deficit.

The term weight loss, usually refers to the desire for a better lean body mass to body fat ratio, which will encompass two main goals.

  • Fat loss is best achieved by creating a calorific deficit through diet and activity.
  • Building lean muscle is best achieved by training the muscles with resistance.

Pilates can form part of a great exercise and healthy eating plan when you are seeking to lose weight. It can help build muscle using bodyweight training and help you to create a strong core foundation for other forms of exercise too.