Getting Fit and Flexible with Pilates

Pilates is designed to be a complete package, aiding weight loss, increasing stamina, improving fitness and most importantly increasing your levels of flexibility and posture. Pilates was originally designed to help wounded soldiers recover their fitness after being injured at the front and the results were almost miraculous for the time as young men thought to be all but crippled regained the full use and range of motion in injured limbs. Pilate’s classes are available in a multitude of levels, from beginner all the way up to advanced.

Pilates emphasises working the core, the group of muscles in the midsection that are responsible for our stability and balance, while moving the other parts of the body. This means that the entire physique is improved and toned. The best benefit that Pilates offers over many other forms of exercise is that is provides flexibility. Flexibility is the ability of a joint to make full use of a wide range of motion, from the fully flexed position to the fully extended position. The flexibility of any joint relies on the length and suppleness of ligaments and muscles and the shape of the underlying bones and cartilage. Pilates gradually extends a joints range of motion, aiming to increase ease of movement and range of motion over a period of time. People who suffer from back ache can benefit from Pilates especially if the back ache is the result of poor posture. Building core strength can realign the bones and joints, and the stretching exercises then build on that, expanding flexibility. As we age, if we do not exercise, we will gradually lose our range of motion which can lead to poor, stooped posture, back and hip pain, and even increased risk of falling in the event of losing our balance.

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Pilates is an amazingly adaptable regimen and can be done in the gym or out of doors, either with an instructor-led class or under one-to-one training with a personal trainer. There are even Pilates DVDs that can be followed from the comfort of the living room. You could even create your own workout using this fantastic list of Pilates exercises, although it is strongly recommended that you allow a professional to guide you in finding and holding the correct posture and positions for the exercises. Pilates is an excellent exercise system, adaptable yet effective for all fitness levels.

Because Pilates exercises focus on building long lean muscles the body becomes stronger without bulking out. Many practitioners of Pilates are noticeable for their long lean limbs, and beautiful posture which makes them appear taller than they are. This is good news for people who want to be fit and lean, without bulking out and looking too muscular. Bodybuilders and weightlifters are very muscular, and this often impacts on their flexibility as the muscle mass limits their movements. Pilates avoids this scenario by focusing on creating long muscles.

Other benefits in doing Pilates are found in its aiding of weight loss. The process of flexing muscles, bending and even balancing all create useful heat in the body, and this heat is generated by burning calories. The boost to the metabolism generated by exercise does not stop abruptly after the exercise session, it continues for a while afterwards, which means that more weight is lost. Regular exercise can boost energy levels, and combined with a healthy diet can keep blood sugar levels even throughout the day, preventing snack attacks from undoing all the good work! Another advantage is the wonderfully calming effect that Pilates has on mood. Following Pilates sessions requires complete concentration and focus on the exercise at hand, and this gives your active brain a little ‘downtime’ to relax and unwind as the body is stretched. Andy Murray, the international tennis star, famous for being grumpy and taciturn astonished his manager and coach by becoming positively upbeat after taking up Pilates! There is much more information on Pilates here and there is no negative side to this comprehensive system.

This post was written in collaboration with lafitness.co.uk

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