To an outside observer, a mat Pilates class looks relatively benign. Much of the class is performed in a prone or supine position with slow movements and no equipment. Every Pilates move, however, depends on principles such concentration, control, fluidity, breath and balance. Through a strong mind-body connection, your muscles become toned and you improve your overall ability to execute coordinated movements. Although Pilates does not offer tremendous aerobic conditioning, fitness professionals and health care providers agree that it offers other significant benefits.
Improves Core Strength
Despite the limited cardiovascular benefit of practicing Pilates, it proves to be one of the most effective and challenging ways of developing core strength and stability, notes the American Council on Exercise. A strong core, which generally refers to the muscles of the abdomen, back and glutes, enhances overall athletic ability and daily function. A strong core makes you less vulnerable to injury and improves your posture.
Promotes Muscular Endurance and Flexibility
A study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" in March 2010 concludes that in active middle-aged men and women, Pilates practiced twice weekly for 60 minutes promotes statistically significant increases in "abdominal endurance, hamstring flexibility and upper-body muscular endurance." These benefits were observed after just 12 weeks of following the Pilates basic mat movements.
Optimize Body Composition
Regular Pilates practice helps enhance overall body composition. A study by researchers at the Wellness Center of the University of Miami found that participants who took a one-hour mat Pilates class, three times a week, experienced significant results in eight weeks. In particular, their body fat decreased by an average of 1.2 percent and circumferences of the waist, chest and arms also decreased.
Maintain Spine Health
Pilates mat exercises help people with back care issues. According to Beth Glosten, MD of Spine-Health, an online information source for back issues, Pilates can be particularly effective for people with pain caused by excessive movement and degeneration of the intervertebral discs and joints. Pilates also helps balance the sides of the body, aiding in creating postural symmetry and preventing injury that occurs from uneven stress patterns on back joints and discs. By improving mobility at the hip and shoulder joints, Pilates helps prevent excess stress on the spinal column. Pilates focuses on the concept of proper back alignment, which may trickle into a participant’s daily awareness of how they hold their body.
- Spine-Health: Pilates Exercise and Back Pain
- American Council on Exercise: Can Pilates Do it All?
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Pilates for Improvement of Muscle Endurance, Flexibility, Balance and Posture
- Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport: Eight-Week Traditional Mat Pilates Training-Program Effects on Adult Fitness Characteristics
- health and fitness girl image by Paul Moore from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.