By Éadaoin McNamara
Pilates has taken the world by storm in recent years and continues to grow in popularity as a form of exercise. So what is Pilates and what’s all the raving about?
In short, Pilates is a low impact, mind-body type of exercise designed to optimize physical fitness in people at every level of physical ability.
At YOUtherapies we call our pilates PhysILATES as we are physio or physical therapists who lead your sessions. Many people think of Pilates as a dancer’s workout, but that’s not the case. Pilates was created by Josef Pilates over 80 years ago. Josef Pilates grew up as an unwell child suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. He took matters into his own hands and started his own form of exercising which helped strengthen his body and improved his physical condition.
During World War 1 while working in a hospital with injured non-ambulatory patients, he adapted his methods to the environment and patients in front of him. He discovered it sped up their recovery period.
After the war, Josef Pilates moved to New York and lived in a suburb close to the Broadway district and opened a studio. Pilates was noticed and adopted by the dancing community due to the success of this studio. Nowadays, Pilates has been developed into a wider field of exercises and equipment and now benefits people of all stages of life.
Although more research needs to be conducted in the area of Pilates, the overall consensus suggests that there are many benefits in practicing Pilates. One study by Kloubec (2010) demonstrated that partaking in a 12-week Pilates exercise program led to significant increases in abdominal muscle endurance, hamstring flexibility and upper body muscular endurance in active middle-aged men and women.
So what benefits are linked with Pilates?
- Builds whole body strength and stability
In the past, Pilates was all about ‘the core’. Nowadays, we identify our ‘core’ as a group of muscles including our abdominal, gluteal, pelvic and back muscles. You should leave a pilates class feeling like you’ve worked your whole body. Muscle strength is essential at all ages in order to condition our bones, joints and muscles to manage the daily tasks of life. Strength training has a role for everyone – particularly those that are hypermobile, ageing (all of us!) or pregnant / postpartum.
- Optimises flexibility and mobility
Sometimes people think flexibility training is just for gymnasts, yogis or dancers but in fact, flexibility is key for everyone. For example golfers and tennis players will benefit from working on their upper back and shoulder mobility. Someone else may benefit from increasing their hamstring mobility in order to offload their lower back pain and enable them to pick things up off the floor. You should leave a Pilates class feeling more light and limber!
- Improves balance and coordination
Lots of movements in Pilates will challenge your balance. Many will also test your co-ordination: for example an exercise with a few steps involved and then connecting the movement to a breathing pattern. Working on balance and coordination is super important as we age to help prevent falls.
- Increases muscular endurance and tone
The longer you stick with anything, the better you get at it. And it’s no different with Pilates. With building your practice, your muscle endurance with improve. With time and consistency you may notice being able to do more repetitions of an exercise or increasing your ability to hold a plank for longer. With practice, comes strength and endurance.
- Injury prevention
Many people come to Pilates for general wellbeing and day to day injury prevention. Many also come to supplement their current exercise program. Whatever your sport, there’s a role for Pilates in your conditioning. Injury prevention is far preferable to injury management.
- Low impact
Pilates is a low impact exercise. This is ideal for those initially returning to exercise following eg. surgery, pregnancy, chemo / radiotherapy and injury.
If you would like to try Pilates for yourself, check out our class timetable here.