Photo By: Courtesy of Kim Gladfelter
Pilates employs stretching exercises that strengthen muscles, promote flexibility and improve coordination.
Pilates is a great way to address muscle imbalances that eventually cause pain. Those who practice it can improve their health and state of mind far beyond their exercise sessions once they grasp the basic principles. Over time, Pilates helps develop intense body awareness to control pain and injury.
Pilates boasts a number of benefits that set it apart from other forms of exercise.
• Awareness and concentration. A strong sense of body awareness is at the heart of Pilates. Nothing beats the individual guidance to help engage the weakest muscles and eliminate common compensations that lead to injury. The ability to derive results quickly is an added benefit.
• Balance. Pilates has a unique way of accomplishing gains in strength and flexibility simultaneously. The result is that those who practice it will feel good even while they are exercising.
• Breathing. Once an exercise is grasped, more attention is placed on breathing to deepen the benefit.
• Centering. Focusing on the core is part of every Pilates movement because it protects the spine. Many people are drawn to Pilates because it offers an ideal way to control back pain.
• Control and precision. As Pilates movements become more advanced, the control of the movement adds a fun challenge. The end result is a fluid exercise that looks effortless.
• Efficiency/flow of movement. Pilates emphasizes movement versus holding a position to ensure a carryover into how you move in your daily life to avoid injury.
The types and benefits of Pilates
There are two types of Pilates: mat and apparatus (equipment). Mat work uses the body to challenge the core. Apparatus work provides a more comprehensive body workout with a higher repertoire of exercise possibilities. Apparatus work can assist or challenge a regular exercise regimen. Pilates works best when both are practiced.
Beginning with a private session or small group can provide an opportunity to develop the groundwork for successful results. It requires good individual guidance to ensure that beginners are not compensating with muscles that are already overworking.
Pilates tends to be more challenging over time as those who practice it fine-tune their movements to engage weak muscles more effectively.
With guidance from a physical therapist trained in Pilates principles, Pilates can help rehabilitate an injury, pain and/or dysfunction. It may also prove beneficial in the post-rehabilitative stage of injury to maintain the patient’s achievements.
Those new to a regular fitness routine can learn proper form from Pilates to achieve a more beneficial result.
Diehard fitness fans can benefit by working toward a more challenging, fluid program. Athletes from a variety of sports choose Pilates to cross-train and avoid injuries. Sport-specific exercises on the apparatus can be used for performance enhancement.
No matter what your level of fitness is when you start, Pilates can accomplish desired results with its balanced program.
Kim Gladfelter is a physical therapist and Pilates instructor at PhysioFit Physical Therapy and Wellness in Los Altos. For more information, call 947-8500 or visit www.physiofitpt.com.