Developed from a news item on the About Health website by Alycea Ungaro, here are five key ways that Pilates can help keep your body young, healthy and active:
Encourages full breathing
Pilates teaches you to breathe fully and deeply. Cells saturated with oxygen boost energy levels as well as cognitive abilities, resulting in reduced tiredness and forgetfulness.
Works the whole body
Instead of rapid movements performed with poor control, Pilates favours low repetitions and good positioning. This avoids the poor body mechanics and repetitive strain injuries frequently experienced with high intensity exercise like Step or Zumba or indoor cycling. By working all parts of the body equally, Pilates, done on a regular basis, can help us keep strong and mobile throughout the course of our life.
Involves a complete range of movement
Pilates exercises take the body through a full range of movement. This keeps the joints lubricated and preserves the health of the muscles, ligaments and tendons that work them. As we age, maintaining the ability to sit, stand, kneel and bend is key to the body’s health and wellbeing. Pilates can help with this. By contrast, other forms of exercise involve a much more limited range of movement. For example, if you were to focus on cycling as your main source of exercise, over time the range of motion of your spine would diminish and the muscles in the chest and shoulders would tighten. Tight muscles inhibit movement. When movement is restricted you become more sedentary, which, research shows, accelerates the aging process.
Pilates teaches you to move your body in alignment, by which we mean working the muscles and skeleton the way they are designed. Pilates exercises strengthen the body symmetrically so that nothing overworks and nothing underworks. Everyday life though creates imbalance in the body. For example, we carry bags or children, or sleep more on one side than another. Pilates provides us with a way to counter the imbalance caused by our daily activities. Golf and tennis are good forms of exercise, but they don’t work the body evenly; in fact most sports don’t. Keeping your body properly aligned as you move, particularly at speed, helps prevent injuries, avoid arthritis (particularly in the spine and leg joints) and reduces poor motor skills, all of which are synonymous with aging.
Assists with transitioning
Injuries happen most often when we transition from one activity to another, for example, getting up from the floor and running to answer the phone, or bending down to pick up a drill then reaching up to use it to mend a shelf. Pilates exercises train the body to bend, turn and straighten with control thus helping us transition more effectively. With less haphazard movements, accidents and injuries, which have an aging effect on the body, can be avoided.
All exercise has benefits but many sporting activities fall short of full body wellness. Indeed, some pursued exclusively and too often, e.g. indoor cycling or running can leave the body prone to injuries and illness. Regular Pilates, together with some form of cardio-vascular exercise, will help the body perform optimally and make it better able to cope with the demands of daily life.
Pilates with its five age-defying properties has a vital role to play in keeping us all as active as possible for as long as possible. But don’t take my word for it. Below are two pictures of Joseph Pilates, one taken when he was 57, the other when he was 82. As you can see, there is very little difference in the physical condition of his body…
If you’d like to try Pilates, why not drop into one of our small group classes run each week at The Wellbeing Studio in Clevedon.