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5 Ways Pilates Can Improve Your LifePosted by: Function Physio

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a fitness routine that utilises low-impact movements to build strength, and flexibility, muscular stability, and endurance. The key emphases of Pilates are core strength, mindful movement, and muscle balance.

This workout routine is easily accessible to athletes of all levels; exercises can be scaled to individual ability, and most of the movements can be completed with only your body and a floor mat.

Pilates workouts are a fantastic way to improve your athleticism and to get into better shape. However, athletes and non-athletes alike can benefit from Pilates workouts in many other ways as well, with benefits spanning across aspects of both physical and emotional health.

Here are 5 ways Pilates can improve your life:

1. Pilates improves nervous system function

Exercise encourages health of the entire body, not just in your muscles and joints. Practicing fitness activities that specifically engage deeper muscles and tissues can activate communication chains between your brain and your muscles that may not be used otherwise.

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To illustrate the difference between Pilates and other exercises, consider this: doing sit-ups will target your abdominal muscles, but your core is actually made up of a series of muscles that support your spine and midsection. Learning to engage all of these muscles can improve your body’s ability to communicate with the nervous system.

2. Pilates can improve your posture

The muscles in your core are specifically responsible for helping you to achieve proper posture. If your core muscles are weak then you are more likely to slouch. Good posture is important for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the following:

  • Proper posture reduces the stress on the muscles throughout your body. Slouching exerts tension onto your back and shoulder muscles, creating unnatural knots and soreness that would not exist otherwise.
  • Sitting and standing straighter enhances your ability to breathe deeply. Straightening your spine in turn opens up your rib cage. Doing so reduces restrictions on your lungs and rib cage, allowing you to take fuller breaths.
  • Maintaining an erect stance will increase the benefits of your other fitness activities. All weight lifting exercises, from simple dumbbell and bodyweight movements, all the way up to Olympic lifting, should be completed with a firm core and proper posture so as to limit the risk of injury. Maintaining an erect stance also ensures that your exercises are actually benefitting the muscles that you are targeting. For example, completing a set of bicep curls with a slouch causes you to unnecessarily engage your back muscles to complete your reps, thereby reducing engagement from your biceps.
  • Better posture reduces the risk of incurring back problems. Slouching exerts stress on the spine and back muscles. A lifetime of poor posture habits can misalign your vertebrae or even lead to potentially debilitating back pain. Improving your posture now could be the key to staving off expensive future treatments for avoidable back issues.

3. Pilates helps to relieve tension and stress from the body

When you experience stress, your body releases hormones that activate your primal “fight or flight” instincts. The only way to release those hormones is through physical activity. Unfortunately, we experience most of that stress in situations that do not allow us to immediately relieve it, such as in the office or in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Stress hormones will build up in the body until they are released. Pilates stretches out tense muscles and ligaments to relieve the physical side effects of your pent up stress by utilising dynamic stretching techniques, which will allow you to stretch more deeply than you could through simple static stretches.

We tend to carry our stress in deep muscle tissue. The mindful movements practiced in Pilates can help you to be more aware of those muscles and to release that tension more readily.

Releasing the tension from your body will, in turn, release it from your mind, helping you to maintain a state of emotional balance and well-being.

4. Pilates can help you to practice mindful meditation

In addition to releasing physical tension from the body, Pilates can be used as a mindful meditation practice to improve overall mental health.

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Meditation has been shown to improve emotional health by:

  • Improving focus
  • Releasing stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Managing chronic or ongoing pain
  • Honing the mind and increasing creativity
  • Fighting addictions and bad habits

Meditation can take many forms. Pilates specifically incorporates the techniques of deep breathing and focusing on physical sensations, helping you to free your mind from day-to-day distractions and focus on your body.

5. Pilates can improve your ability to perform everyday tasks

Pilates specifically focuses on engaging and strengthening the muscles in your core. Your abdominal and back muscles support your entire body throughout your day-to-day activities, so improving the strength and stability of those muscles can drastically improve your overall quality of life.

Even tasks that utilise your arm and leg muscles, such as sweeping the floor or lifting heavy boxes, can be more difficult if your core is weak compared to the other muscles that you are using to complete those tasks. By improving the strength and flexibility of your core muscles, you can improve your ability to do everything from completing housework, to pursuing sports activities effectively.

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Remember, core muscles encompass more than just your abdominal muscles, so simply completing lots of sit-up reps is not likely to strengthen your core correctly. Pilates engages all of the muscles in your core to ensure that your back, obliques, and deep-tissue muscles are also developed properly.

If you are a new athlete, Pilates can be a great way to build a base level of strength and endurance to help you get into better shape. If you already live an active lifestyle, it could be the key to improving your balance and stability and achieving a more well-rounded level of fitness. In either case, no matter what your athletic background, Pilates is a fantastic physical outlet to improve your life in a number of ways in addition to its physical fitness benefits.

Sources:

www.livestrong.com/article/501845-a-list-of-five-core-muscles/
www.bodyscapesfitness.com/the-benefits-of-dynamic-stretching-vs-static-stretching/
www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/mind-body-pain-relief/meditation-eases-symptoms
pilatesbridge.com/12-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-pilates-for-your-peace-of-mind/
www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-core

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