Even Beginning And Moderate Exercisers Can Benefit From Pilates

Beginning or moderate level exercisers may mistakenly believe Pilates is beyond their ability, or that it requires expensive, specialized equipment.

While it’s true that many top athletes and professional dancers use Pilates to stay in shape, the exercises can be adjusted to suit different fitness levels, and many only require an exercise mat.

Benefits and Cautions

The exercises, created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, build strength, stability, coordination, and endurance. Pilates routines generally involve a series of slow, sustained movements using abdominal control, and proper breathing. The quality of each posture or movement is emphasized more than the number of repetitions completed.

Working our deep, internal abdominal and back muscles, or core muscles, is the primary Pilates focus. Having a strong core improves balance, and muscle control, making us less injury-prone.

Other benefits of pilates are:

  • Improved breathing, concentration, and flexibility.
  • The prevention and relief of back pain.
  • Balanced muscle strength on both sides of the body, especially in the abdominal, hip, lower back, and buttocks areas.
  • Stabilization of the spine, and better posture awareness.

One study involving sedentary, obese women also found that doing Pilates an hour a day, four days per week for eight weeks helped with weight loss, and improved resting metabolic rates.

As with any new exercise, it’s a good idea for sedentary folks, and those with chronic health conditions to okay the activity with a physician before giving it a try. Pilates may not be suitable for people with unstable blood pressure, severe osteoporosis, a herniated disk, or those at risk for blood clots.

Mat or Equipment Based Pilates

Though some Pilates routines incorporate exercise aids such as foam rollers, or resistance bands, mat-based Pilates is typically done on the floor using the exerciser’s body weight to provide resistance. Mat-based routines often appear similar to yoga workouts.

Equipment-based Pilates involves using an apparatus with spring-loaded resistance. One such apparatus, called a Reformer, looks like a bed frame with adjustable springs and a sliding carriage. Though this type of equipment may seem intimidating to Pilates novices, workouts can be adjusted to a beginner’s fitness level.

Because precision movements are essential to Pilates, and to avoid injury, it’s best to receive initial training from a qualified pilates instructor. However, there are numerous books, DVDs, and websites that teach Pilates—just remember to start slowly, and gradually build workout intensity.

Building Strength

Exercise greatly benefits diabetes management, and all adults should include both aerobic and strength training activities in their fitness routines, according to The Department of Health and Human Services. They suggest:

  • A weekly minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, and
  • Twice weekly strength training sessions.

Pilates is an excellent strength training workout, plus the flexibility, balance, and coordination benefits it provides may make our aerobic activities safer, and more enjoyable.

Sources: Defeat Diabetes; Diabetes Well Being; Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: amanda vernor

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