Pilates. You probably heard about it in a magazine once. It might seem like something only celebrities do in expensive gyms with pricey machines. However, Pilates isn’t solely for the Hollywood elite. If you have even a small amount of floor space, you can practice Pilates and enjoy its many benefits.
What is Pilates exactly? What kinds of advantages does it provide? How can you get started? Keep scrolling for all the answers.
What Is Pilates?
While it might seem like one of today’s trends, Pilates isn’t exactly new to the scene. It’s nearly 100 years old, first created by Joseph Pilates back in the early 20th century. It was initially designed for dancers recovering from injury, but over the years, it’s spread like wildfire. Now millions of people around the globe use it to improve their flexibility, mobility, muscle tone, and strength.
Pilates is a type of low-impact exercise that focuses on strengthening and toning your muscles. It combines calisthenics, yoga, and ballet. It tends to focus on improving the alignment of your posture, along with your flexibility. The quality of the movement matters more than anything, and concentration and control are key. The activity will never ask you to sacrifice the integrity of a movement for the sake of doing it more or longer.
Exercises flow from one to the next, connected by steady and rhythmic breathing. There’s an extra emphasis on the use of the core and lower back muscles, although Pilates will target your whole body. While many Pilates classes use a bed-like apparatus called a “Reformer,” you can just as easily practice Pilates on a mat or blanket.
What Are the Benefits of Pilates?
Pilates can offer a number of mental and physical health benefits. Of note:
- Pilates is for everyone.
- It builds core strength.
- Pilates encourages good posture.
- It promotes weight loss.
- It improves flexibility.
1. Pilates is for Everyone
Since Pilates began as a rehabilitative method for dancers, it’s gentle and low-impact. The movements are slow, controlled, and actually graceful. For this reason, Pilates is safe for just about everyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or ability.
And plenty of research backs it up. Studies have found that Pilates can improve balance in elderly women. This could potentially help reduce the occurrence of falls in older adults, which results in about 32,000 deaths a year. It can also improve the quality of life for older sedentary people. Another study demonstrated that Pilates can improve the wellness of people with Type 2 diabetes. It’s been tested on individuals with juvenile idiopathic arthritis and had a positive physical and psychosocial impact. Pilates can even benefit pregnant women right through their deliveries. Even professional athletes use Pilates in their strength training routine because it activates lesser used muscles and fully recruits their core by challenging them with unfamiliar movements.
Whether you’re young or old, in great health or battling specific challenges, or well into your pregnancy — Pilates is likely a safe and effective way for you to move your body and stay healthy.
2. It Builds Core Strength
This might, in fact, be one of the most prominent benefits of Pilates. As we mentioned earlier, there’s a focus on using the core because it’s the center of the body and from where all movement starts.
Your core isn’t just your abs; it’s all of the muscles that wrap around your trunk. They support and stabilize your body, helping you do everything from sit to stand, to jump and run. Without a strong core, you literally couldn’t get out of bed. Even as you read this blog, you’re using your core to some degree. (Otherwise, you’d fall over!) Furthermore, a strong core is necessary to keep the rest of your body healthy, especially your lower back, hips, and pelvic floor. Unbeknownst to many people, soreness and injury often start with weakness in this area.
The importance of breathing in Pilates only further demands control from the muscles of the abdomen. In other words, sit-ups aren’t the only way to strengthen your core. Pilates will challenge you in a totally different way.
3. Pilates Encourages Good Posture
The average adult in the U.S. sits for about 6.5 hours a day. (Some estimates say it’s actually closer to 10 hours a day.) And for teenagers, it might be even longer. We’re hunched over our keyboards, typing away at work. And when we’re not doing that, we’re looking down at our phones, texting and scrolling through social media. In fact, this even has a name: text neck. This refers to the constant stress we cause our necks by repeatedly putting them in a forward position for long periods of time.
All of this is more damaging than many of us realize. Text neck negatively impacts the curvature of the cervical spine, neck, shoulder muscles, and supporting ligaments. Poor posture can result in back problems. It also makes you weaker and can even lead to incontinence, constipation, heartburn, slowed digestion, and headaches.
Posture goes beyond how we sit and stand, though. Imagine trying to do any sort of physical fitness with rounded shoulders and a hunched back. Exercise puts stress on the body in a good way. But when you stress a body that already has a shaky foundation, that’s a recipe for soreness and even injury.
Pilates can help counter this in a couple different ways. For starters, your core is vital in maintaining good posture. And because Pilates strengthens the core so dramatically, it can therefore improve your posture and alignment of your spine. Plus, Pilates can enhance your spinal, scapular, and joint flexibility, in addition to strengthening your shoulder, lower back, and abdominal muscles. All of this contributes to a stronger, healthier posture.
It also helps that Pilates emphasizes positioning, alignment, bodily awareness, and the balancing of opposing muscles. You become much more in tune with yourself, making it easier to recognize when you’re not sitting or standing properly. Think of it as a chain reaction. Because your posture can affect your health and fitness in many ways, Pilates will pay dividends.
4. It Promotes Weight Loss
Because it challenges and stresses the muscles, ultimately leading to increases in strength, Pilates can help you better control your weight. Some research has found that Pilates can drastically reduce the body weight, BMI, and body fat percentage in overweight or obese adults. Another study looking at perimenopausal women found that Pilates caused significant positive changes in their weight, BMI, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, fat percentage, and body composition parameters.
Of course, Pilates won’t be the sole miracle cure for better body composition. Getting enough sleep and eating nutrient-dense foods also play a vital role. However, when it comes to moving your body, Pilates can be an excellent way to stay in shape.
5. It Improves Flexibility
Along with a weak core, a lot of people experience pain due to a lack of mobility and flexibility. Sitting all day shortens the muscles of your hip flexors. Rounded shoulders make for tight pecs. When you stand up — and especially when you work out — all of these tight, weak muscles are strained in ways they’re not prepared for. While sitting less and moving more are two important solutions, Pilates can help to balance some of the damage we do from being in a constant sitting position.
Because Pilates lengthens and stretches all of the major muscle groups, it can improve your flexibility and mobility. The distinction here is important. Flexibility refers to how much a muscle can passively stretch. Mobility refers to a joint’s range of motion. We care about both because both keep you up and moving, and help prevent injury.
What’s unique about Pilates is that it’s not solely about stretching. It’s about stretching and strengthening. It packs a lot of punch to help keep your muscle tissues, ligaments, and joints in amazing shape.
What To Know Before Starting
So, now you know about some of the benefits of Pilates (and that was just scratching the surface). You’re ready to get going. What’s next? Should you buy a Reformer? Sign up for a membership at your local Pilates studio? Let’s go through a few of the need-to-know basics before you dive in.
Ease Into the Moves To Safeguard Against Injury
While it’s gentle with minimal impact, Pilates is still demanding on the body. If you’re new to it, going from zero to 100 in one fell swoop isn’t the wisest approach. Such is the case with any sport or physical activity. This is especially the case if you live a sedentary lifestyle. Your muscles are going to be tight and probably weak. Don’t let this discourage you. Just know that patience is key, and you need to give your body the time it needs to acclimate to this new activity.
One thing about Pilates is that it’s infinitely scalable. This is why it’s suitable for so many people. If a movement is too challenging, there are undoubtedly several ways you can modify the movement and scale back the intensity to make it more manageable for you. Don’t be afraid to start slowly. Remember: progress over perfection.
Good Pilates Workouts Can Start at Home
We know that when you first find something you enjoy, the temptation can be to go all in. But before you bring a Reformer into the home or commit to a studio membership, understand that you can start Pilates right in the comfort of your own home.
With the Tempo smart home gym system, you get to turn your home into your own personal Pilates studio. If you have enough room to set up a mat (or a couple of towels) and lay down, then you have everything you need.
Wear Comfortable, Body-Hugging Clothing
Pilates will put your body in all sorts of positions, so comfort is key. Choose clothes that you can move around in freely. While you want them to be a little loose, you also want to wear something that won’t get in the way. Yoga pants and a tank top / t-shirt are a good option, as are standard gym shorts.
Semi-snug clothing also makes it easier to observe your form and technique. For example, if your t-shirt is too baggy, it’ll be harder to determine whether you’re maintaining proper posture.
You can also choose to wear Pilates “shoes” although this is optional. These shoes are quite minimal by design. There’s no cushioning, but they help provide grip during your sessions. Pilates shoes are flexible, lightweight, and breathable, and the sole is very thin. Feel free to exercise barefoot or in socks, too. It really comes down to personal preference.
Master Basic Moves
Most physical activities have a standard set of “the basics.” These are the movements you want to master before you do anything else. Remember, building a strong, sturdy, reliable foundation is important for making progress and keeping your body safe and healthy.
Some of the more basic Pilates exercises include the following:
- Swan dive
- Hip twist
- Side bend
We know that you might be eager to get to the more advanced stuff, but remember that even the pros revert to the basics on a regular basis. These movements build strength and stability, and they help to support your body in everything it does. Get comfortable with these before you progress to anything more intense.
Give Yourself Time To Recover Between Workouts
Train hard. Recover harder. This should be the motto that all athletes live by. Exercise is when you stress the muscles and break the body down. When you rest, everything has a chance to recover, heal, and build back up. This is how you get stronger and leaner over time.
But spending too much time exercising and not enough time recovering can backfire, as counterintuitive as that might seem. In fact, it even has a name, overtraining syndrome, and it comes with serious ramifications. Now, you’d have to do a lot of Pilates to go to this extreme, but regardless, resting is good.
Getting Started With Tempo
Ready to get started on your Pilates journey but not sure what the next step is? Train with Tempo and work with your own personal Pilates instructor in the privacy of your own home. Depending on your needs and goals, choose from Tempo Studio — our most powerful all-in-one solution, or Tempo Move — designed to fit anywhere. Because we’re constantly adding new programming, you’ll never run out of ways to switch up your exercise routine and keep your body guessing.
Home gyms are here to stay, and our goal is to empower you to reach your health and fitness goals through the power of technology. Let’s get to the next level together. Shop Tempo today and experience all of the benefits that Pilates can offer you.