9 Pilates Benefits for Your Mind and Body
In another lifetime, my workout regimen consisted of sweaty, strenuous, high-intensity bootcamp workouts. It felt as if I was a slave to my sneakers and gym membership. The lifestyle failed to mend my own self-limiting beliefs – my confidence = virtually non-existent and my psychological health = riddled with anxiety, depression, and unhappiness. I knew I needed a change and, thankfully, I found the answer I’d been looking for: Pilates.
Not only did Pilates re-energize my mind and revitalize my self-esteem, but it completely revamped my entire body. The whole-body workout toned my core, arms, legs, and booty – helping create a longer, leaner look. It touched every facet of my life, from my motivation to my lifestyle to my ability to exercise self-love.
And the best part? Pilates is an ideal workout for all fitness levels. Whether you’re just beginning to care for your health and body or you’re a serious athlete, Pilates is transformational. It’ll truly rebuild you from the inside out. Oh, and I LOVE that you can get genuine results from the comfort of your home, as these workouts can be performed pretty much anywhere, anytime.
So, why should you invest your time in Pilates? Here are 9 reasons to get started.
Improve Your Range of Motion & Flexibility
Yes, Cirque Du Soleil performers and professional dancers can twist and bend their bodies like pretzels, but you don’t have to be flexible to do Pilates – that’s the beauty and benefit of these exercises. In fact, Brazilian researchers conducted a study in which young women (with zero Pilates experience) became 19.1% more flexible after a mere 20 Pilates sessions. Without loosening or strengthening your muscles, they become tight, limiting your range of motion. Not only could this reduce the efficacy of the exercises you perform, but it can make you vulnerable to injuries.
With Pilates, as you gain more flexibility, it’ll directly impact your quality of life. Increased flexibility makes everyday tasks more manageable, helps reduce aches and pains, and promotes enhanced movement in your joints.
Focus on All of Your Muscles
While Pilates is incredibly advantageous for building core strength, the workout improves power and stability within all muscle groups. And, I truly mean ALL of your muscles – even ones you never realized you had (that is until you feel the rewarding satisfaction of post-exercise soreness).
The days of dreading your “leg day” gym sessions are over. Pilates is specifically designed to strengthen your entire body as one, complete unit. Each exercise focuses on proper breathing paired with fluid movements. This full-body approach will fortify your body, mind, and balance.
Develop a Strong Core
Maintaining a strong and controlled core while exercising is key, and it doesn’t require thousands of sit-ups each day. With Pilates, you’ll perform a wide range of movements designed to solidify your core. According to a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study, after 36 weeks of Pilates training, female participants strengthened abdominal muscles by an average of 21%. In doing so, they were able to eradicate muscle imbalance from the right to the left side of their core.
By strengthening your core, it’ll help alleviate back pain, correct your posture, and create a toned, leaner looking stomach. How? When your core has the strength to better hold and align the frame of your body, your muscles will naturally relax, allowing you to maintain proper body positioning and stance.
Upgrade Your Posture
Whether you’re sitting at your desk, binge-watching Netflix, driving, or simply looking down at your smartphone, we tend to neglect our posture. Shoulders are slumped forward, your back is rounded, and you’re inadvertently doing damage to your body. Without great postural alignment, you put yourself at risk for back and neck pain (which can lead to greater issues as you age).
As you loosen muscles through Pilates exercises, it naturally causes your body to stretch and straighten. This stems back to the full-body approach of this workout, which gently targets flaws in balance and strength from one side of your body to the other. Similarly, as you increase your flexibility and improve core strength, you’ll find yourself standing straighter. With a healthier posture, you’ll minimize joint stress and reduce overall back pain.
Stimulate Your Brain
Through Pilates, you’ll create a healthy mind-body connection. Exercises are designed to be performed with controlled movements and concentrated breathing. This type of focused effort forms and solidifies new neural pathways in your brain, linking your body and mind through mindful movements and heightened awareness. So, in addition to all the physiological benefits of pilates, you are also improving your mental health.
Joseph Pilates, the creator of Pilates, called his method of working out the “thinking man’s exercise.” Much like meditation, the level of concentration applied to Pilates will provide you with a much-needed reprieve from the stress of money, work, and relationships. Yes, it’s heavenly.
According to a Chinese study, after 10 weeks of Pilates training, researchers measured an increase in the alpha peak power of women’s brains. This type of positive change can improve memory, cognitive functioning, and neural network activity. Researchers believe practicing Pilates may potentially serve as a treatment option for those battling cognitive dysfunctions and brain-degenerative diseases.
Rehabilitate and Prevent Injuries
When originally founded, Pilates was created as a means to promote injury rehabilitation. Improving your flexibility, posture, strength, and range of motion is instrumental in injury prevention and recovery. Between its gentle and low-impact movements, Pilates can help your body heal properly without overexertion or aggressive exercises. Additionally, Pilates can be performed with or without equipment, providing versatility and unlimited potential when it comes to tailoring a workout that can both support and challenge your body’s specific needs.
Alleviate Your Back Pain
This was HUGE for me. After my physician recommended Pilates as a way to manage and minimize my chronic back pain, I was blown away by how immediate and dramatic the results were. While back pain can arise from a number of things, like poor posture, injury, tight or weak muscles, a lack of stability, or misalignment, Pilates exercises can address all these areas thanks to the emphasis it places on building core strength and straightening/elongating the spine.
A study published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy found that practicing Pilates provided more relief for those suffering from chronic back pain than visiting a physician or specialist. What’s more, researchers discovered that by stabilizing the core and lower-back region, Pilates increased mobility and reduced the amount of stress the back is exposed to.
Re-Energize Your Life
Exercising naturally increases the release of dopamine and endorphins in the body – two chemicals directly responsible for elevating our mood and happiness. Combine this with the surge of oxygen and blood flow circulating through your body and your brain will enjoy a natural high. It doesn’t require hour-long routines either – even a quick five-minute session will help you feel more energized.
There’s no denying how stressful life can be sometimes. But, when you engage in low-impact exercises, like Pilates, it can help decrease cortisol levels. Lowering the release of this stress hormone will not only help you feel your best now, but it’ll provide a plethora of long-term benefits for your mind and body.
Actually Enjoy Working Out (Seriously)
I used to DREAD going to the gym. After discovering Pilates, I absolutely fell in love. The workout is, dare I say, fun! Between all the different movements and immediate benefits (for all experience levels), the exercise calms the mind, challenges the body, and teaches you to truly appreciate and care for yourself. One of my favorite aspects of this workout routine is how easily it can be integrated into your lifestyle. It doesn’t feel like a chore. It becomes a part of your day that you genuinely look forward to.
When you welcome Pilates into your life, you’re also becoming part of a unified community – one that’s supportive, encouraging, motivating, and will help you in every step of your journey.
Ready to boost your mind-body wellness? Start your Pilates transformation today!