Is Pilates Good For You?
by Jai Sappal
Introduction and History
Pilates was originally developed by someone with the same namesake… Joseph Pilates. In the 1930’s, he opened a studio which attracted dancers to attend. They found it was effective in treating injuries and preventing them from recurring. It was thought by Joseph to improve the physical sense by simultaneously working the mental side (1).
What does Pilates do?
Pilates has 5 elements to it: breathing, cervical alignment, rib and scapular stabilisation, pelvic mobility and using the transverses abdominis. Exercises are designed so that the essence is focussed on control and stability and then working through movement as well. Emphasis is placed on muscle engagement and the quality of movement. Exercises can be done on a mat or on a Reformer. A Reformer is a sliding bed-like contraption that has multiple resistance springs attached and can be varied so the person can sit, stand or kneel during their exercise (2).
The exercises are created in a way to increase muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility, whilst also working on posture and balance. Body weight is the main form of resistance that’s used in the mat exercises. The mental component mentioned above is seen in the form of proper breathing techniques and concentration throughout the duration of each of the exercises (2).
What does the research say?
If you’re a non-active person, then Pilates could be a good way to get started. It was observed that quality of life and physical function can significantly improve after doing just two months of Pilates (3).
For those that might not be interested in aerobic type exercises such as walking, Pilates offers a good alternative to get similar effects. One such study demonstrated that you can significantly improve your cardio, body composition and physical function by doing Pilates (6).
A common source of pain for a lot of people is the low back/lumbar region. Many of the techniques that physiotherapy condones at Peak Health are rooted in exercises observed in Pilates, namely core conditioning (2). Pilates has actually been shown to improve lower back pain and can be used as a form of treatment (4). However, not all formulas can be applied to every person. A program should be tailored to that person’s injury and needs, in order to work through their chronic lower back pain. According to one review (5) there also should be a minimum of 2-3 times per week of 60-minute sessions, under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Of course, you would also get the other associated benefits of doing Pilates such as general health improvements, pain levels, sports performance, flexibility, and proprioception (7).
On a slightly different but related topic, Pilates can also help with pregnancy. In a study for designing a Pilates program for pregnant women, it was shown that Pilates had profound effects on multiple factors. They report that Pilates will improve neonatal outcome, decrease depression, reduce back pain and improve mental health. They also go on to propose that it can reduce medical and treatment costs by integrating Pilates into health care so that providers pay more attention to women’s health during gestational stages of pregnancy (8).
At Peak Health, we have a resident Pilates instructor – Narelle Clark! Narelle provides clear instructions and will adapt your exercise tolerance to the prescription and challenge you to improve.
If you have questions about Pilates at all, give us a ring.
Creating good control around the body is a fantastic way for muscles and joints to support one another. If you need physiotherapy, our physios can create an individualised program to get you back to your everyday life symptom free.
Peak Health Services.