Fitness fads come and go, but Pilates has persisted worldwide, increasingly gaining popularity, and is favored by many people and fitness fanatics all over the world. It is by no means your only avenue to achieve your fitness goals; but people use it to complement other forms of exercise, and have found that this not only makes you look leaner and fitter, but also strengthens and protects the body.
Origin of Pilates
Born in 1883, Joseph Pilates was a sick child. He spent a lot of time researching avenues for fitness and body building and developing exercises to overcome his ailments and become stronger. During World War I, he made exercise equipment from springs of hospital beds and used the exercises he developed to help wounded soldiers get stronger and back on their feet. When the influenza epidemic in 1918 claimed thousands of lives, he noted that none of his trainees had died. He eventually moved to New York in 1928 and started what would be the first Pilates studio, which soon became popular with dancers. Almost 90 years later, Pilates remains an effective form of exercise and is now popular worldwide.
Pilates is not a magical wand and it certainly needs to be augmented with other exercises. So if you are just looking to lose weight, please remember that you need to complement Pilates with cardio and other forms of exercise. So what is Pilates? Rather than trying to encapsulate the essence of Pilates in a definition, I think the following statements will provide insights into the fundamentals of Pilates.
A mind-body workout that emphasizes proper breathing.
An exercise system that focuses on stretching and strengthening the whole body.
An approach that incorporates flowing movements and gives a strong core and posture.
Completely adaptable and irrespective of your age or level of fitness, it can be tailored to suit your needs.
Over the years, many people have incorporated Pilates as a part of their fitness routine because of the benefits they have experienced. The magnitude of the gains obviously will vary from person to person, depending on the type, frequency and intensity of the program, but if done right, you will definitely benefit in several ways.
Improved body awareness and posture
This, in my opinion, is a huge benefit of doing Pilates. It creates personal awareness. This means not only do you learn how to exercise, buy you also have more awareness of your posture. So with body awareness, the pain that you have in your neck from sitting in a slouched position will automatically get reduced.
A stronger core
Pilates exercises develop a strong core that includes the deep muscles of the abdomen, back and pelvis. A stronger core means that the rest of your body is well-supported, and movements will be easier and more efficient. You also stand to gain a flatter stomach and that six-pack or bikini look. Research has shown that Pilates tends to be more than 200% more effective in strengthening the abdominal muscles and addressing hard-to-target areas like your obliques than other forms of exercise.
Muscle flexibility, strength and tone
Stretching and strengthening are an integral part of Pilates exercises. Building muscle bulk tends to shorten muscles, which makes them more prone to injury. In Pilates you stretch your muscles to their full extension and then contract. The end result is more flexibility and as a result better mechanical efficiency and less vulnerability to muscular injuries. Finally, the Pilates techniques help not only gain strength and flexibility but also reshape your muscles.
Most people who have been practicing Pilates swear by it. Since it improves muscle tone, strength and posture while increasing body awareness, you feel better and move with more ease and grace. As a result, you look and feel fit. And since you feel better and are leaner, you will automatically have higher energy levels.
Better breathing, better circulation, more stamina
While there is a great deal of attention to core, unlike some other forms of exercise, Pilates addresses the full body, including breathing, it offers a level of integrated fitness that results in better breathing and as a result better delivery of oxygen to the entire body.
I could go on and on about its benefits. But it suffices to say that, through its integrated approach, Pilates will make your body feel like it has a lot more definition by hitting the right areas and resulting in better health, better complexion, less stress, better digestion, better immunity and better sleep.