Pilates has been popular for a long time, but it’s not just another “fad” workout – much like yoga, pilates has a ton of proven health benefits. In fact, it’s a recommended exercise regime by many doctors and manual therapists and is even offered in-house at many physiotherapy clinics. So if you’re thinking of starting pilates, what overall health benefits can it provide you?
Pilates focuses on core strengthening and body alignment. Many of our postural muscles become weak through poor posture (slouching, sitting too much) and not doing the right exercises to strengthen them – pilates works to target these muscles.
As you gain strength and awareness of your body and posture you will become more aware of how you’re sitting and standing and find that it becomes easier to sit and stand with correct posture.
Improves Core Strength
The core is the focus of pilates, this is where all movement originates so focusing on keeping the muscles of the core strong and flexible can improve overall health and mobility. Improving your core strength also means better pain management – especially for back and/or hip pain, and makes movement (especially intense movements) easier.
A major benefit to pilates is an increase in body awareness – proprioception. This is the ability to understand where your body is in space, how your body responds to things and better understanding how your body feels.
Proprioception is important to help us prevent injury. This is why pilates is often a recommended exercise to those that struggle with body awareness such as those with Ehlers Danlos’ Syndrome and Hypermobility Syndrome. Those that have these conditions have joints and muscles that work beyond what is considered a normal range of motion, meaning that proprioception can be incredibly hard and injury can be frequent. In these cases, strengthening the muscles through low-impact exercise like pilates is also beneficial for the overall stability of joints.
As with yoga, pilates involves a lot of slow, calculated movement and connection to breath. This focus on, almost, “meditative” breath-work and the natural release of endorphins through exercise combine to make for an excellent exercise regime for boosting mood, reducing stress and managing anxious thoughts (or “centring”).
Helps With Balance, Flexibility and Mobility
Pilates focuses on slow, controlled movements and dynamic exercises. This means that it combines both stretching and movement-based strengthening exercises to form a powerhouse when it comes to improving 3 important areas of functioning – balance, flexibility and mobility.
Core strength is an important part of improving these three areas, but pilates’ focus on body alignment is also an important factor, especially when it comes to balance. Helping with these 3 key areas makes it the perfect exercise for all ages to improve and maintain these important areas of functioning as we age.
Helps Manage Pain
With a focus on strengthening the core, pilates works muscles deep within the abdomen, as well as pelvic floor muscles, neither of which are often targeted with “conventional” exercises. These particular muscles play an important role in supporting us and our organs and helping to keep back pain at bay. Working on core muscles can also greatly improve hip pain, and better posture and body alignment can even prevent headaches.
There is also some evidence to support pilates as a treatment for menstrual pain  through its focus on mind-body, and the stimulation of deep core muscles and nerve fibers.
Pilates focuses on core strength, body awareness and breathwork to improve the way that your body moves and feels. It’s also a great clinical exercise for many struggling with chronic pain, recovering from injuries or who are looking to maintain their mobility and flexibility as they age. If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not Pilates is for you, these overall health benefits may be just what you need to get you off your couch and into your local pilates studio.