At the start of the year, it seems as if everyone is talking about the fitness programs they think will revolutionize their lives (or at least bodies). Some of these schemes come and go by the year, but one enduringly popular system is Pilates, embraced by professional athletes and suburban homemakers alike. Here’s what you ought to know about this unique exercise program:
- What is Pilates?
Let’s start with the most obvious question: What is Pilates? Pilates is an exercise system that was developed in the early 1900s by Joseph Pilates, a German man (the reason why the term is capitalized). It uses controlled movement with an emphasis on alignment, centered strength and coordination to improve strength, flexibility and balance. Some of the exercises involved in Pilates are performed on a mat or standing alone, but many use specialized equipment that utilize pulleys and resistance to enhance the effects of the exercises.
- Who Should Try Pilates?
While Pilates does increase muscle mass, it is best known for giving dedicated practitioners lean, flexible bodies (along with the famed Pilates flat abs). So it’s not necessarily the best method to use if you’re preparing for a body building competition. But that doesn’t mean it’s only for beginners, either. Pilates is a low-impact exercise form that can be very beneficial if you’re elderly, have been recently injured and need to recover, or simply haven’t exercised in a while. However, it is also used by elite dancers and athletes, generally in combination with other exercise programs, to develop core strength and muscle control.
- Can I Do Pilates at Home?
Some Pilates work can be done at home, and movements from Pilates are incorporated into many combined workouts (along with yoga, aerobic dance, etc.). But since a true Pilates regimen requires the use of equipment, it’s actually more affordable to get started by taking Pilates classes at studios or physical therapy clinics. Many people also find that having an instructor present is vital at first, since Pilates can be adjusted to nearly any fitness level and it can be difficult to choose the appropriate intensity without guidance.
What other questions do you have about Pilates? Would you be interested in trying a class or two? Join the discussion in the comments.