Pilates has been around for several decades, but it’s having a big moment right now — as it should. With its focus on your core and stabilizing muscles, Pilates is one of the best ways to improve your balance, posture, joint stability, and more, plus build strong, powerful muscles that will serve you in just about any task you take on. And while all that strengthening may sound hardcore, Pilates is done with a combination of bodyweight and gentle resistance training, so it’s incredibly gentle on your body. This makes it a great choice for anyone recovering from an injury or who wants to strengthen their muscles without high-impact activity.
POPSUGAR spoke with Pilates instructors to get the scoop on the workout that’s reforming — sorry, we had to! — the fitness industry and why you should definitely get in on the hype. All the important Pilates benefits to know, ahead.
Benefit of Pilates: A Stronger Core
Of all the benefits of Pilates, it’s most famous for its focus on core strength. “Your core and ability to appropriately transfer load when functionally moving is at the center of everything we do,” says Olivia Suman, clinical Pilates instructor and DPT student. Meaning, having a functional and strong core is what allows you to, for example, pivot your whole body to catch a falling plate, hit a golf ball, or bend down and pick up your kid.
It also has perks for your workout. “Learning how to switch your core on means that you can get the most out of each exercise, without allowing the body to compensate,” Suman says. This also means Pilates is an amazing companion exercise to heavy lifting, adds Amanda Blauer, creator of the Amanda Blauer Pilates app, since a strong core will keep you safer from injury and help you maintain good form even when you’re pulling a heavy barbell.
Benefit of Pilates: More Total-Body Strength
Most Pilates moves work multiple muscle groups at a time, allowing you to build strength all over your body; in fact, research suggests Pilates can enhance muscular endurance. But Pilates is also famous for tapping into and strengthening smaller stabilizing muscles that people don’t train as often and which help you move with control, adds Ashlea McKee, certified Pilates instructor. For this reason, Pilates has been shown to significantly improve functional movement patterns for runners and potentially help reduce injuries, Suman says.
While Pilates may be focused on your core, you’ll feel the burn across your whole body, particularly if you’re using a reformer. “Pilates is a challenging full-body workout,” Kristal of @mypilatespurpose says. “I like to say that if you think an exercise is easy, you’re probably doing it wrong.”
Benefit of Pilates: Better Posture
Most of us spend hours a day on our computers, only to switch to our phones or TV screens, which can wreak havoc on our posture. “Pilates can help reverse our bad posture habits by strengthening the core and upper back, stabilizing the shoulders, and opening up the chest,” McKee says. Studies have shown that strengthening your trunk muscles and building that mind-body connection (which Pilates fosters) can help improve your posture. In addition to strengthening those muscles, Pilates is hyperfocused on proper form and alignment, which are great for improving posture, Kristal says.
Benefit of Pilates: Stronger Mind-Body Connection
Pilates emphasizes proper breath, concentration, focus, and flow, which challenges you to connect your mind with your body, Kristal says. It can require all your attention to execute each movement correctly. In fact, Pilates can require so much concentration that it almost becomes meditative, says Katie Pierce, Pilates and yoga instructor. Essentially, it’s an exercise in mindfulness. Blauer agrees, sharing that while Pilates isn’t explicitly a meditation, it connects you to your breath and centers you, and you’ll often leave class feeling recentered because of that.
Benefit of Pilates: Improved Flexibility and Mobility
Joseph Pilates, the founder of the workout, famously said, “You’re only as young as your spine is flexible.” Flexibility isn’t all about aesthetics; a certain amount of flexibility keeps your joints happy and healthy and can prevent injury, McKee says. Pilates incorporates a range of different movements that focus on lengthening (i.e., stretching) muscles, and that goes hand in hand with improving flexibility and range of motion within a joint, Suman says. Indeed, a systematic review of studies on Pilates has shown that the practice has a positive effect on flexibility.
Benefit of Pilates: Healthier Pelvic Floor
You might not think about training your pelvic floor when you’re in the gym, but a strong, functional pelvic floor is important for your overall health and quality of life. In fact, your pelvic floor is considered part of your core, since it works to hold up everything in your abdominal cavity.
Pilates will teach you how to activate, engage, and strengthen your pelvic floor, Kristal says. Having a strong pelvic floor helps you work deeper into your abdominals, McKee adds. Training and strengthening your pelvic floor is incredibly important before and after childbirth and can help prevent postpartum urinary incontinence.
Benefit of Pilates: Improved Mental Health
Exercise, in general, offers lots of benefits for mental health, but it never hurts to have a reminder. The mindfulness aspect of Pilates and the fact that it helps strengthen your mind-body connection go hand in hand with mental health benefits. “Pilates places a huge emphasis on the breath,” McKee says. “Breathing techniques not only help you work deeper into the exercise but also feel less stressed and mentally calm.” Research backs that up, showing that Pilates can help reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, as well as increase energy levels, Pierce adds.
Benefit of Pilates: Less Impact on Joints
Pilates is full of low-impact exercises — aka nonjumping exercises — that are gentle on your bones and joints, Kristal says. You’ll still get a great strength workout, but the low-impact nature of Pilates makes it perfect for those who want to avoid putting extra stress and strain on their body.
Benefit of Pilates: Better Injury Recovery and Prevention
One perk of low-impact exercises is that they’re perfect for those looking to get back into fitness after an injury. Pilates is an excellent form of exercise for injury rehabilitation, McKee shares. “You aren’t aggravating the injury but strengthening and mobilizing the areas around it, in order for you to recover and prevent the injury from occurring again.” Many Pilates exercises can be safely modified so someone recovering from a specific injury can still perform them, Kristal says. Additionally, because Pilates is so helpful for improving your balance, mobility, and mind-body connection, it can also be helpful in preventing future injuries.
Benefit of Pilates: Great Accessibility
While some Pilates classes (i.e., those using reformers) can be intimidating and costly, you actually don’t need any equipment to get into Pilates, Blauer says. You can do Pilates with just yourself and a workout mat, and you can even replicate reformer-style moves using sliders, towels, foam rollers, and more. Plus, trainers like the ones we spoke with here are sharing all kinds of workouts on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and even their own online platforms to help you start safely practicing Pilates anytime and anywhere. As all of them stressed that Pilates is for everybody and every body.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sam Kang
Product Credit: POPSUGAR TPE Yoga Mat, Live the Process bodysuit
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