Pilates & Exercise

Pilates is a method of physical conditioning that works the entire body, and in the process teaches one to move more efficiently, and therefore, do everything in life with greater ease.

Through a system of exercises performed either on a raised mat or various pieces of apparatus, Pilates emphasizes core strength (including the abdominals, back, and gluteal muscles), while improving flexibility, endurance, posture, and overall health.

Each piece of equipment has its own exercise repertoire, designed to enhance movement and achieve greater balance in the body. Whether working on the mat or the equipment, the fundamental concept remains the same: to engage the core muscles and initiate every movement from a place of strength, thereby seamlessly moving from one exercise to the next, with each exercise building on the last to provide an intense workout for the whole body.

Classical Pilates remains true to the vision of its founder and creator, Joseph Pilates, who believed that health and fitness could best be achieved by a comprehensive and integrative approach, one that aligns the body, sharpens the mind, and promotes an overall sense of well-being. To uphold that vision, the classical Pilates Method honors the specific sequences and exercise repertoires, which have endured for nearly a century.

People tend towards extremes. Either they don’t exercise at all, or they exercise way too hard, stressing their bodies and rarely getting the results they crave. Exercise is important for a number of reasons, including stress relief, heart health and staying strong, stretched and balanced. But when it comes to losing weight and staying slim, we need to focus most of our attention on what we eat, while minimizing stress. Pilates, swimming, walking, and hiking are all great exercise methods that are healthy for the body long-term. There are always new exercise fads, and some are exciting to explore, but Pilates, swimming, walking, and hiking are safe, effective, and fun! Walking and hiking (and swimming in lakes or the ocean) are a great way to get outside and enjoy nature, connecting with friends and family. Pilates tones the body and help you do practically everything in life with greater ease, by teaching you how to move efficiently. It is more than just a workout.

By cleaning up your diet, you can spend less energy worrying about how to find the time to exercise compulsively. Instead, you should exercise smart—figure out what your body needs in order to feel healthy and invigorated. Ideally, get into the Pilates studio and workout with an instructor for twenty-five or fifty-five minute sessions, once or twice a week. Consistency is key, so incorporate what you learn by doing matwork at home. Even five minutes of mat exercises at home will keep your body feeling great. You’ll move better throughout the day with straighter posture and less pain. As an aside, I am available for Facetime/Skype sessions to help motivate you, and there are a lot of great online videos from Pilatesology and The Pilates Fix. For moms and dads that feel like they just don’t have time, get down on the floor with your kids and do your matwork while they play. Not only are you setting a good example that exercise is important and fun, but your kids will love the time with you and maybe even join in to their level.

“Exercise is important for a number of reasons, including stress relief, heart health and staying strong, stretched and balanced. But when it comes to losing weight and staying slim, we need to focus most of our attention on what we eat, while minimizing stress.”

While exercise is certainly important, when it comes to weight loss, diet is even higher on the totem pole. It’s true, exercise burns calories and builds muscle, but its benefits are often overestimated, sometimes leading people to justify indulging in unhealthy treats or large portion sizes. Moreover, intense exercise may actually tax the body, increasing stress and appetite hormones, which conflict with weight loss. Beyond the tendency to unknowingly sabotage their own efforts, people often overlook the fact that the quality and type of food they eat is vitally important. The idea of a perfect calories-consumed-versus-calories-burned equation isn’t necessarily accurate. In other words, we can’t eat processed junk and expect to lose weight simply by burning the designated amount of calories to offset it.

“You are only as young as your spine is flexible.”

On the flip side, by claiming that diet is key, do we cut ourselves slack and claim that exercise is unimportant? Of course not! Exercise is good for a multitude of reasons, including improving sleep quality, reducing stress, and boosting bone health, metabolism and muscle definition. Here is where Pilates comes in. Not only does Pilates help you look great, it also has long-term benefits that stretch far beyond helping your clothes fit better. Pilates teaches us to move more efficiently, thereby enhancing the quality of our daily lives and reducing our chance of injury. The strong core that has made Pilates famous helps posture and alleviates back pain. By strengthening and stretching muscles in a balanced way, Pilates helps us age gracefully, thanks to improved circulation, stamina, balance, and flexibility. As Joseph Pilates said in Return to Life, “you are only as young as your spine is flexible.”

Bottom line: If a healthy diet is your greatest defense for staying slim, then you are best choosing a form of exercise—Pilates!—that you’re going to enjoy and that is beneficial for the body, not just for calorie burning.

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Action steps:

  • Practice Pilates. Whether this involves a lesson in a studio setting or fitting in 5-20 minutes of matwork at home a couple times a week, the main thing is that you do it!
  • Go walking, hiking or swimming
  • Get out in nature to help you relax