When you've had a hard day at work and the gym seems like a chore, there's one activity which will make you feel relaxed, elated and in seriously fit shape. And it's not what you think, you filthy lot. Pilates isn'tjust a celebrity fad. It really works.
1. Say goodbye to stress
Pilates, and Dynamic Reformer Pilates (with machines as opposed to a mat), has grown in popularity for a number of reasons. Luke Meessmann at TenPilates says: 'You feel – and see – results quickly, which provides great motivation to keep coming. The classes are intense – it’s a full body workout. Not only can you feel the exercises working, but you feel great afterwards... It’s also time-efficient – you can be in, worked out and out again in just over an hour. And last, but not least, it’s a great stress-buster. Whether first thing in the morning or after a long day at work, Pilates provides a great escape in a fun, small group environment.'
2. Arms like an A-lister
Celebrities consistently credit Pilates as the reason for their toned muscles. Given that the stars often have to plan their days down to the last minute, Pilates fits easily into their day. And not only is it a hugely efficient full-body workout, it has many additional benefits, too. It builds longer, leaner muscles, improves core strength, flexibility and balance, and corrects posture - making you stand taller and look slimmer.
3. Exercise without the fuss
When going to the gym fills you with dread and you keep putting it off, Pilates lets you tailor your workouts and even complete sessions at home. The ideal way to keep up with your training is to have an instructor design a bespoke programme of exercises for you to keep up with in between your sessions in the studio, and plan a review session every so often to make sure your technique is still sound and you are getting the most out of your training. Check you're performing the moves correctly and in time you'll be amazed by the results.
4. It can help you stay in shape
'A good intense dynamic reformer workout will see you burn many more calories than a typical beginners mat class,' says Luke. 'The best way to ensure you lose weight effectively and in the time frame you want is to couple your reformer workout with cardiovascular exercise.'
5. It’s good for your posture
Pilates programmes are praised by everyone from athletes to office workers for their ability to develop strength and correct posture in the key areas of the hips/lower back, upper back and neck – basically counteracting the effects of slouching. Any given class will focus on the areas that people need to work on, namely releasing the typically overactive areas of the chest, upper shoulders, thoracic spine (upper back) and hip flexor muscles as well as activating and strengthening the gluteals, abdominals and shoulder stabilisers. We activate these muscles in isolation and then progressively work them in more compound and dynamic functional movements (movements that you are likely to perform during your daily life).
All of this significantly improves dynamic stability – the ability of the body to hold itself in better alignment for longer, maintaining upright posture, stability and responsiveness.
6. You can even try it when pregnant
Pregnancy and childbirth are times of significant change for the body. But some women don't want to give up their exercise routine as soon as they see those little blue lines. Mums-to-be who regularly exercise their core muscles can expect to experience shorter labours and reduced lower back and pelvic pain.
'Attending classes throughout pregnancy also significantly helps and speeds up the process of getting your body back in shape after childbirth,' says Luke. 'It’s widely understood that the right kind of exercise, taken in the right way, boosts the immune system and circulation, and helps provide the energy levels needed to enjoy your pregnancy more fully and prepare better for labour. However, as with any type of exercise, always check with your doctor first, and remember to tell your trainer that you are pregnant before commencing class.'
7. A life free from back pain.
Pilates was initially developed as a rehabilitative tool. Joseph Pilates was a German gymnast, born in 1883, who dedicated his life to teaching his exercising techniques, believing that poor posture goes hand-in-hand with poor health. He believed that by having awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, we could strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles, and reduce stress.
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12 Apr 2016