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Pilates to Keep Young and Supple

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 2 Jul 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Pilates Exercise Core Muscle Posture

Pilates is a form of exercise that can be practised by anyone, young or old, fit or out of shape. It is designed as a holistic approach that seeks to elongate and stretch the body, in effect strengthening the core and “restoring it to balance”.

Pilates instructors develop individual programmes that make the most of their clients’ abilities, and help them to make the most of themselves. It is considered a very safe form of exercise, and aims to improve your strength, flexibility and overall mobility, helping you to both feel – and look – better.

With Pilates, your strengthened core means that your posture will be greatly improved, so that you will move more efficiently and feel a lot more supple. Whatever your age, Pilates will help you to keep young!

History of Pilates

The form of exercise known as Pilates was started by a man called – what else – Joseph Pilates. A frail child, he was born in Germany in 1880. He moved to England in 1912 where he gained employment as a circus performer, then was interned during WWI.

During his time interned by the British, Mr. Pilates made the most of things, and ended up teaching other internees how to recover from their injuries. He got used to working in a confined space, using special breathing techniques and slow, controlled movement.

In the 1920’s, Mr. Pilates moved to the United States, where he eventually opened a body conditioning studio with his wife Clara, helping others recover from injury.

Eventually, he wrote two booklets about his conditioning theories, which after his death became the basics of what we now know as Pilates.

How It Works

Pilates works, as mentioned, by stretching the core muscles (back, pelvic and abdominal) through low-impact exercises, often led by an instructor, that improve conditioning and aid strength to create better posture.

Through gentle stretches accompanied by controlled breathing, people learn how to stretch their core muscles and get their mind and body to work in harmony together.

Beginner lessons start with floor exercises, and learners are asked to bring a yoga mat and hand-towel, which is used to support the head and/or back. Fitness bands and exercise balls may also be used.

Later on, more advanced learners may use Pilates equipment (occasionally referred to as the main Pilates “machine”). The main one is called a “Pilates reformer”, which looks like a wooden frame with a seat, footbar and gear system, which is used to perform various exercises that stretch the core muscles.

Benefits of Pilates

Pilates offers numerous benefits. Among the main ones are:

  • Rehabilitation. Many physiotherapists refer their patients to Pilates instructors to help them recover from various injuries. Can even help rehabilitate those pelvic floor muscles following childbirth, and help prevent incontinence.
  • Back pain relief. Poor posture is one of the main culprits behind back pain, and Pilates can alleviate this and teach people how to sit, stand and even walk correctly.
  • Increasing strength without adding bulk. Pilates works because the movements are fluid, and unlike weight training, it aims to stretch the muscles, not create bulk.
  • Stress relief. Not only does Pilates aid a good night’s sleep, it also relieves stress and tension. As anyone can do it, it can be helpful for young and old alike, no matter what your initial fitness level is.
  • Preventing osteoporosis. Good posture puts less stress on the bones and helps keep this brittle bone disease at bay.

People of any age, any ability and any fitness level can benefit from Pilates, which can increase your posture, your inner and outer strength, and make you feel young and supple again.

Practised on a regular basis, Pilates could be a form of exercise that will stay with you for life, something that you can eventually learn to do at home alone to keep yourself feeling and looking great.

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