What is Pilates?
Pilates was first developed by Joseph Pilates early last century and has evolved from an alternative therapy into a popular fitness phenomenon.
Pilates is a mind - body fitness program designed to improve flexibility, strength, coordination and circulation.
It also helps to improve your postural alignment, balancing the distribution of weight and gravity throughout your body. Pilates can be taught one-on-one or in classes of various sizes. Pilates exercises can be carried out on a fit ball, on a special machine called a reformer, or can be performed as floor exercises. There are hundreds of different exercises, and each Pilates instructor, studio, DVD or gym class will have its own focus.
Research on the benefits of Pilates
A study reported in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies reviewed current literature to establish proven support of the benefits of Pilates. According to the study author, there is support for the effectiveness of Pilates in improving flexibility, abdominal and lumbo-pelvic stability, and muscular activity. However, this support was given cautiously, due to small study sample sizes, and it was acknowledged that more robust research “would build a body of scientiﬁc evidence of Pilates’ efﬁcacy and effectiveness in practice.”
How can men benefit from Pilates?
Pilates is a form of strength and flexibility training that can be practised by men of all ages and abilities. Most exercises can be modified and adapted to suit individual needs. Including Pilates as part of a balanced exercise program will offer benefits that may be of interest to some men, include back care, stress management, injury prevention and improved sports performance.
- Back care - Core strength is important for back care. The core is a general term used to describe a group of muscles in your abdomen and back that help to support the spine and pelvis. A fundamental principle of Pilates is core activation and strengthening. Every Pilates movement starts, stays and finishes with your core. Participants are encouraged to consciously focus on engaging their core muscles during each exercise, which may help to increase spinal and pelvic alignment and stability. A stronger core may help to protect your back during other activities and everyday tasks.
- Stress management - Pilates engages the mind by getting you to focus on deep breathing and core activation. This may serve as a distraction from cares and worries, and act as a stress reliever for some men. The movements are slow and controlled, with many performed on your back or belly. There is little impact on the joints, making Pilates a gentle and less intensive form of exercise.
- Injury prevention - Pilates exercises involve smooth, flowing movements that strengthen muscles throughout their full range of movement. There is also a focus on postural alignment, helping to evenly distribute your weight through the neck, spine, pelvis, legs and feet. Combined with a proven ability to improve flexibility, and there are a number of ways that Pilates may help to prevent injury during activity.
- Improved sports performance - It could be argued that if Pilates is proven to improve strength and flexibility , this could cross over into improved athletic performance. For example, improved strength may help you to kick a soccer ball harder, or run up a hill faster. Improved core strength may also help improve with rotational movements such as a tennis serve or golf swing.
References available on request