The Many Benefits of Pilates
Have you wondered why so many of your besties take Pilates classes on the regular? Maybe they love it because Pilates is a valuable way to tone and tighten core muscles. But, the benefits of Pilates extend far beyond the physical body. Pilates offers a wide variety of benefits, regardless of your age or fitness level.
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1. Pilates Builds Core Strength
Working your core, what Joseph Pilates termed “the powerhouse,” is one key focus of Pilates movements.
A 2016 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that Pilates exercises performed two to three times a week on either a mat or a Pilates apparatus (like the Reformer) improved overall abdominal muscular endurance.
“Pilates is a powerful yet gentle way to increase strength, endurance, and flexibility. With a strong focus on core-strengthening exercises, Pilates is accessible for all body types and fitness levels while delivering results that both sculpt and tone the entire body,” explains Andrea Rogers, founder of our XB Pilates program. “XB Pilates provides the precision and control of traditional mat Pilates with Reformer-inspired cardio movements to tone, tighten, and sculpt your body in under 30 minutes a day.”
Try Pilates exercises like the Hundred and the Double Leg Stretch to isolate and activate key muscle groups in the core to build stability and strength.
2. Pilates Increases Flexibility
Flexibility often takes a back seat to benefits like losing weight or building muscle, but according to Harvard Medical School’s HEALTHbeat, doing exercises that “lengthen and stretch muscles can help you prevent injuries, back pain, and balance problems.”
A 2011 review of the effects of Pilates on healthy individuals looked at the results from 16 different peer-reviewed studies. It found strong evidence that Pilates improved flexibility, dynamic balance, and muscle endurance.
Rogers states that “Pilates increases flexibility with the dynamic stretch and strength that is cued within each exercise. Flexibility refers to the range of movement in a joint. It is the quality of bending easily without breaking. The continuous flowing sequence in Pilates movements increases your flexibility over time.”
While the fluidity of many Pilates moves will improve overall flexibility, Pilates exercises like Saw, Cat-Cow, and Swan will primarily focus on elongating muscles in the neck and back.
XB Pilates may improve your mobility and tone your muscles by “taking classic Pilates to the next level with unique sequences that incorporate cardio, flexibility, and sculpting in a challenging and fun workout,” says Rogers.
3. Pilates Improves Alignment
Being mindful of proper alignment is a crucial element and benefit of Pilates.
“Pilates improves alignment by mastering the precision of each movement and listening to the directional cues of your teacher. Alignment refers to correct or appropriate positions of the body,” says Rogers.
While relatively simple to complete, Pilates exercises like the Pelvic Curl and Roll-Up require specific attention to alignment.
“Throughout Pilates, you are moving through multiple planes of movement. [We use the] sagittal, coronal, and transverse planes in [XB Pilates],” explains Rogers. “You will align the body front to back, side-side, and in rotational patterns.”
4. Pilates Improves Mindfulness
Often, during a Pilates workout, you may notice that you got just as much of a mental workout as a physical one!
We quote Joseph Pilates and say that “Pilates is the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. It develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit.”
The focus on breathing as well as the mental focus required for proper alignment and execution of the Pilates exercises closely ties the physical moves to your mental focus.
A 2013 study in the Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices found that Pilates increased mindfulness and sensory awareness, which may improve your mood, relaxation, and stress reduction.
“Pilates teaches you to be mindful by incorporating breathing patterns, transitions within exercises, and a constant reminder of your abdominals initiating each move,” says Rogers.
A separate study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that mind-body exercises such as yoga or Pilates that utilize meditation, breathing, and postures significantly improve brain function and memory compared to aerobic exercise.
Regularly doing Pilates exercises such as Single Leg Stretch and Spine Stretch utilize little to no movement but require a focus on breath and alignment that can bring about significant brain benefits.
5. Pilates/A Good Diet May Aid In Your Weight Loss Goals
We all appreciate better core strength and improved flexibility, but we also want our workouts to move the scale — Pilates and a healthy diet may help you with that.
Rogers notes that “Pilates and a good diet will aid in weight loss due to the simplicity of a mindful approach to both modalities. The amount of time spent engaging your abdominals, lengthening and strengthening your muscles will simultaneously help you to commit to smart nutrition choices.”
A 2017 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness found that 90 minutes of Pilates, three times a week for eight weeks, decreased overall weight, body mass index, and fat percentage for a group of obese women.
Unlike many forms of yoga that tend to hold key poses, the fluidity and movement of Pilates allow you to burn calories while you build core stability and strength.
Want to get in even better shape? “Everybody can initiate change with a consistent Pilates practice, good nutrition, and a conscious mind. Consult your doctor or health coach to learn more for your unique needs.” says Rogers.
Try the Pilates Corkscrew, Scissors, or Seal to torch even more calories during your workout.
6. Pilates Can Reduce Back Pain
Up to 80 percent of adults experience low-back pain at some point in their lives, which accounts for more than 264 million lost workdays per year, which is one of the most common reasons for staying home, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
A review published in Sports Health of studies from 1995 to 2009 on Pilates and back pain found that regular Pilates practitioners experienced significant reductions in the frequency, intensity, and duration of low-back pain.
A separate study published in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation also found that Pilates was able to improve pain, function, and quality of life for those with lower-back pain.
We recommend Pilates exercises such as Pelvic Tilt, Chest Lift, or Swimming to strengthen back muscles and reduce low-back pain.
- Effect Of the Pilates Method on Physical Conditioning Of Healthy Subjects: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26004043
- Benefits Of Flexibility Exercises www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/benefits-of-flexibility-exercises
- A Systematic Review Of the Effects Of Pilates Method Of Exercise in Healthy People www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22030232
- Pilates: What Is It? Should It Be Used in Rehabilitation? www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445206/
- Pilates, Mindfulness and Somatic Education www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4198945/
- Differences in Brain Structure and Function Among Yoga Practitioners and Controls www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6023989/
- The Effect Of Pilates Exercise on Body Composition in Sedentary Overweight and Obese Women www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27607588
- Low Back Pain Fact Sheet www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet
- Back Pain Facts and Statistics www.acatoday.org/Patients/What-is-Chiropractic/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics
- Pilates Improves Pain, Function and Quality Of Life in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: a Randomized Controlled Trial journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0269215514538981