We know Pilates helps us to build strength. We probably also know by now Pilates works to lengthen our muscles. The work we do either on the mat or equipment works on extending, lengthening, and dynamically stretching out muscles and fascia as we build strength and control of our small and large muscles. That alone is a pretty good reason to do Pilates! Still not sold? Let me share with you several other reasons to do Pilates that you may not have realized.
Pilates helps to build and strengthen bones. If you are younger, this may not be something you are even thinking about… but you should. Your bone-building years peak around 35. Doing strengthen exercises using weights or our own body as weight is key to building strong bones. You’ll want those for the following 60 years! Didn’t exercise in your younger years? Are you doomed? Not necessarily! Pilates will still help you maintain bone density. The key is consistently working on strength as you age. If unfortunately, you do develop osteoporosis or osteopenia (early-stage bone loss) Pilates will be there for you to help you safely workout without putting you at risk for fractures.
Pilates also helps with balance, proprioception, and the vestibular system. You probably know what balance is and chances are you believe you were born without much of it 😉 Guess what? Balance is a learned trait so it’s never too late to work on your balance. We do that in Pilates!
What is proprioception? It is knowing where you are in space, how much room your body takes up. It is how we can walk through a door without bumping into the frame. Have you noticed with kids under 10 if you ask them to move their foot over an inch (assuming they know what an inch is) they move it a foot? Younger children are still learning proprioception. They are less aware of where their limbs are compared to their bodies. The good news – Pilates helps teach us better proprioception…. and you need this for balance!
The final piece needed for balance is the vestibular system in the ear canal. You are born with a vestibular system but various factors such as neurological disorders, ear infections, etc. can affect this. The movement we do on the reformer helps to train our vestibular system! Being able to move without getting motion sickness is all about having a functioning vestibular system.
Feet and alignment – Did you know 25% of the bones in the human body are located in the feet and ankles? That is a lot – and worthy of some time and attention. Many physical pursuits require you to keep your feet and ankles steady and often times immobile. Think high-top basketball shoes, ice skates, sturdy tennis shoes … all of those inhibit foot and ankle movement. That may be necessary for those sports but for day to day life – we need mobility in our feet and ankles. Pilates forces you to move your toes, arch your feet, move your ankles. All of this movement and strength building helps you to have a solid base. Why is this important? If you chronically roll your feet in when you walk or stand, your knees and hips are also going to be pulled inward. Your back may also feel the effects of this slanted alignment. Over time you will stretch one side and tighten the other of the leg, knee, and hip. An imbalance is often the culprit for pain and injury.
These are just a few of the many hidden benefits of Pilates – besides the obvious fitness results. Joseph Pilates was a pioneer, an inventor and a man who studied the human body and movement. His ‘exercise’ was really more of a science that we all get to enjoy and benefit from still today! Do your body many favors and do Pilates!