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A Skeptic's Guide to Pilates

Think Pilates Isn't for You? Think Again!

NOTE: This exercise routine is intended for use before and after pregnancy. Postpartum women need clearance from a health-care provider before starting a workout regimen.

For more information on regaining strength in the abdominals after pregnancy, read Post-Pregnancy Core Rebuilding.

As a fitness instructor, I get a lot of questions about Pilates, from what it is to how it benefits the body. I too was skeptical about how this gentle form of exercise-which, to me, looked a lot like lying on the floor-could boast such big benefits. I like a workout that's challenging and intense-heavy weights, high inclines, fast speeds. Those floor exercises are for beginners who are weak and unfit?or so I thought.

I decided to learn more about Pilates by taking a few instructor workshops and training in "the method" myself. What I discovered surprised me. Pilates, when done correctly, offers major fitness benefits, requires mental focus, connects the mind and body, and truly does sculpt the abs like nothing else I've ever tried. Starting as a skeptic, I became a believer, practitioner and instructor in a matter of months.

For all of you skeptics who think that Pilates has nothing to offer you, think again! Almost one hundred years since Joseph Pilates (1880-1967) created and refined the exercises of his namesake, more and more people continue to practice Pilates around the world. Research has shown that Pilates also improves:
  • Spinal mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Muscular endurance
  • Posture
  • Body awareness
  • Lower back pain
  • Bone density
  • One's ability to properly engage the transverse abdominals (the deepest core muscles)
It may sound too good to be true, but let me clarify what Pilates does NOT do (these statements are backed by research conducted by the American Council on Exercise and other organizations):
  • Pilates is NOT a cardiovascular (aerobic) workout. Your heart rate may elevate somewhat during Pilates, but generally will not reach an aerobic level.
  • Pilates is NOT a substitute for strength training. Pilates does focus on the core muscles, but does not build muscle mass the way traditional strength training (using progressively increasing resistance levels) does.
  • Pilates is NOT a major calorie burner. Studies show that, on average, participants in a 50-minute Pilates mat workout burn between 175 calories (beginners) and 250 calories (advanced).
Therefore, Pilates should be an additional component to a well-rounded fitness program that includes cardio, strength training and flexibility. Pilates alone cannot be all of these things for you. It's in a league all its own. So if you still have to do all those exercises on top of Pilates, what's the point? This simple example will help you better understand one way that Pilates offers benefits that other exercises can't.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole earned her bachelor's degree in health promotion and education, specializing in exercise and fitness, from the University of Cincinnati. She maintains several fitness certifications, including prenatal and postpartum exercise design.
Nicole Nichols

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