Since its development in the early 1900s, the popularity of Pilates has ebbed and flowed. During the pandemic, when people began looking for easy yet effective exercises they could do at home, Pilates was a perfect choice. It has continued to be a popular form of exercise, and you can find in-person Pilates studios or virtual Pilates classes wherever you go.
Joseph Pilates was a German boxer and physical trainer. After using body-weight resistance exercises to help with the rehabilitation of injured patients, he developed what was called “Contrology.”
His techniques utilized six fundamental principles to foster the mind-body connection. Those six principles of Pilates are center, concentration, control, breathing, precision, and flow. The style of exercise later came to be called Pilates after its founder.
Although it was originally designed for rehabilitation, Pilates has many benefits beyond physical therapy. The combination of several repetitive, low-impact exercises improves flexibility, strength, muscle tone, and more. Some studies have even shown a correlation between practicing Pilates and decreased aches and pains.
There are many misconceptions about Pilates, including that it’s only for rehab or that it’s only for women. Men can certainly benefit from Pilates, too! It’s a well-rounded exercise that can help every individual, no matter your fitness level or overall goal. That’s why I’m dedicating this post to sharing what Pilates really does and whether or not it’s worth giving a try.
What Does Pilates Really Do & Is It Worth It
1. Pilates improves your core strength.
Pilates helps increase core strength and endurance. All Pilates moves involve your core muscles. Your core includes all of the muscles responsible for the stability and movement of your trunk, including your back and even down into your hips. During your Pilates workouts, you’ll call on your abdominal strength to stabilize your body to get the full benefit of Pilates.
Many traditional core exercises focus on only one or two areas of your core. By contrast, Pilates involves a variety of exercises that engage different muscles of your core system. Whether you’re specifically doing core stabilizers or just using your core in other exercises, you’re building core strength and endurance.
2. Pilates increases flexibility and mobility.
Because Pilates is a low-impact exercise that is very similar to yoga, it is often discounted as merely stretching. Pilates certainly helps to stretch your muscles, but it’s more than that. Pilates movements focus on developing an ideal range of motion at the joints. It also strengthens your muscles to improve your mobility. Mobility and flexibility are both important components of living a healthy life long-term.
3. Pilates improves posture.
If you’ve ever tried to sit up perfectly straight for more than a few minutes, you know it’s probably harder than it seems. That’s because lots of muscles are involved in keeping an ideal posture. Specifically, the rear abdominal muscles are primarily responsible for providing trunk and spine stability, leading to improved posture.
The transversus abdominis muscle is one of these often neglected postural muscles. It is specifically activated during Pilates workouts when your Pilates instructor tells you to “pull your core in.” You strengthen this muscle by assuming the proper form!
When you do Pilates consistently, you’ll also build greater awareness of your body in space (called proprioception). This will make you more aware of your posture throughout the day, allowing you to fix it when necessary.
4. Pilates builds long, strong muscles.
One of the first things you hear about the benefits of Pilates is that it lengthens and tones your muscles. But how does that happen? Pilates focuses on all kinds of muscle contractions, but it primarily prioritizes eccentric contraction. Eccentric contraction is the lengthening of a muscle against resistance.
The contrast to this is concentric contraction, where a muscle shortens. Overworking on concentric contraction exercises is what can give muscles a more bulky look.
5. Pilates can give you more energy.
Pilates isn’t usually a cardio exercise, but the focus on breathing does have cardiorespiratory benefits. Different Pilates moves are often performed to the counts of inhales and exhales. As you do this, you increase your cardiorespiratory capacity and blood flow, which in turn gives you more energy.
Engaging in regular exercise also releases feel-good endorphins from physical activity. As a low-impact exercise, Pilates is easy to slot into your routine to boost your energy (especially for those over 40).
6. Pilates decreases stress.
Following along from the previous point, those same endorphins that increase energy can also decrease your stress. In addition to the production of endorphins, Pilates can actually decrease the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The steady, controlled movements and breathing help to regulate the nervous system and recenter you in your body. Lowering your cortisol and regulating your nervous system can help improve your long-term mental health.
7. Pilates can help with weight loss.
As a full-body workout, Pilates can be a great addition to your weight loss efforts. Pilates will help you to build stronger muscles, and muscle tissue burns more calories at rest. Since Pilates is a low-impact exercise that can be done at any level, it’s great for beginners. Combined with aerobic, cardio workouts, and proper nutrition, Pilates can help promote weight loss.
8. Pilates is a good workout during pregnancy.
Pilates is a good, safe workout option for pregnant and postpartum women. Pilates exercises can help build back core and pelvic floor strength safely. When so much of pelvic floor function is boiled down to Kegels, Pilates offers a dynamic alternative. Plus, Pilates can help alleviate low back pain that often accompanies pregnancy. It may even help during labor and delivery!
9. Pilates prevents injuries.
Pilates’ focus on whole-body strength and dynamic movement can counteract common muscular imbalances. Muscular imbalance can lead to tightness, pain, and injury-causing instability. By balancing your muscles, you’re able to provide more stability to your joints while moving. This can help prevent injury during everyday life and during other exercises or sports.
10. Pilates is effective for healthy aging.
Pilates isn’t just a workout for the young; it has a multitude of benefits for older individuals. It increases balance by strengthening postural muscles and joints. This reduces the risk of falling, which can be even more dangerous as you age.
Furthermore, there is also a link between Pilates and increased bone density. Strong bone density can prevent osteoporosis, arthritis, and reduce pain.
Is Pilates Worth It?
With all of these benefits, Pilates is definitely worth it. You should at least give it a try if you haven’t! If you’re looking for a new exercise routine or just want to shake up your current one, Pilates is a great choice.
Pilates is intended to be a complete philosophy of training the body & mind to achieve uniform precision & control of one’s body in the most efficient, healthy way possible. The non-impact, balanced series of movement emphasize complete concentration, body alignment, correct breathing, making the torso or ‘powerhouse’ work, allowing the rest of the body to move freely. The result is a restoration of muscular balance, better posture, increased flexibility, & better support of the bones and joints.
For me it has changed my life. (Of course I would say that, right?) But really, it has helped me improve my self-care and better appreciate my body before and after kids. It’s also drastically increased my strength to be a busy working mom and given me such inspiration. Not to mention all the health benefits.
Plus, there are many different forms of Pilates workouts to try. You can start with basic Mat Pilates workouts at home. More practiced Pilates fans may want to try Reformer Pilates or upgrade your at-home Pilates setup with some of these pieces of equipment.
Truly, there are so many incredible benefits from a regular Pilates practice. Your routine can be totally customizable to accommodate your individual goals. Whether you’re more excited about increased functional fitness or being able to sleep better at night, use these benefits to motivate yourself to do Pilates exercises regularly.
Pilates is beneficial for your mind, body, and soul.
Pilates is a great investment of time, effort, and money. You don’t have to go all in and do Pilates every day to benefit from it. Start by taking a few virtual Pilates classes. You can even try one of our free classes on our Youtube!
With consistency and time, you’ll see just how effective Pilates can be for improving strength, flexibility, confidence, and more. Plus, taking that extra time just a few times a week is what will help unlock the best version of yourself.