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Your Health

Explore the transformational power of Pilates


Photo Courtesy of Kim Gladfelter
Pilates instructors use the Trapeze Table to prepare clients for mat classes, which some people think are more difficult. The Trapeze Table supports shoulder girdle strength and alignment through hanging excercises.

For years now, people ranging from health experts to celebrities have touted the benefits of Pilates, singing the praise of how the regimen sculpts the body without the bulk of weightlifting.

But there are many advantages beyond that toned behind. Following are a few reasons you should consider trying a Pilates class.

• Pilates is three-dimensional, working the entire body. Pilates is an overall body fitness system that addresses imbalances, core control, strength, flexibility, movement efficiency and balance. Because it is low-impact and works multiple muscle groups at the same time, my studio, PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness, offers Pilates classes to the public through our wellness center, but we also incorporate it in physical therapy and post-rehabilitation programs.

• Pilates balances strength with flexibility, helping reduce the chance of injury. Unlike weight training, which works muscles individually, Pilates exercises force muscles to work together, rebalancing the muscles and making them function more efficiently. Combined with the Pilates focus on core stability, strengthening both the core and the back, the workout helps prevent injury and improve athletic ability, which is why so many athletes use Pilates as a part of their fitness routine.

• Pilates is easy to adapt for a variety of fitness levels. Those who question whether older clients or beginners can take a Pilates class need only look at the reason Joseph Pilates created his exercises: He developed his original exercises after World War I to help prisoners of war weakened by years of incarceration regain strength and mobility. Certified instructors learn a variety of ways to adapt Pilates exercises to the needs of their clients, enabling classes and private lessons to be adjusted for a variety of different body types and abilities.

Benefits of Pilates

People who incorporate Pilates into their exercise routine can see a variety of benefits, including:

• Longer, leaner muscles

• Improved posture

• Increased core strength, stability and peripheral mobility

• Enhanced functional fitness and ease of movement

• Balanced strength and flexibility

• Heightened body awareness

• Better balance, coordination and circulation

Pilates classes come in two types: mat classes and classes on an apparatus or the Reformer. Mat classes are usually less expensive and use the weight of your body to challenge the core. Apparatus work offers more whole-body and alignment attention. The equipment can assist or destabilize the movement environment to perfectly match the abilities of students to their challenge point, maintaining good form.

In either case, take private sessions with an instructor to start learning Pilates exercises. This enables the instructor to individualize the exercises to meet the needs of clients and to apply modifications as necessary. It also allows the client to develop a successful foundation for effectively practicing a Pilates program.

One of the better benefits of Pilates is that one can continue this exercise form to any age and enjoy the results. Many people give up exercises such as aerobics and running because high-impact activities are less tolerable with age. However, we have also seen people successfully return to such fitness programs when they cross-train with a good Pilates routine.

It is refreshing to know that we do not have to settle for a life of stiffness, pain and movement limitations as we get older. A Pilates regimen opens the door to healthful body mechanics and fitness, no matter what stage of life we are in.

Kim Gladfelter is owner, physical therapist and Pilates instructor at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness, 1000 Fremont Ave., Los Altos. For more information, visit physiofitpt.com.

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