Whoever you are and whatever you like to do, there really are no downsides to improving your posture and core strength, which are just two of the many benefits Pilates brings to the table.
However, there are lots of things you can be doing to improve your health and fitness, and limited time in which to do them. So to convince you of the benefits of the practice, whether you’re a runner, office worker or gym-goer, we’re handing over to Pilates teacher Jess Ellmer (opens in new tab) – who has also provided one top exercise to try for each group. After that, we hand over to Pilates teacher Jonathan Caguioa to detail the benefits for men.
The Benefits Of Pilates For Office Workers
Your lower back can suffer from sitting at your desk for too long. Pilates has been shown to help alleviate pain with small precise movements which help support your spine.
If tension and tightness in your neck and shoulders are creeping in when spending hours at your computer, taking regular breaks to open your chest out can make a difference to your posture and relieve your aches.
Top exercise to try: Chest opener
Lie on your side, and bring your hands behind your head and your elbows around your ears. Bring your legs up and bend them, so you form 90° angles at your hips and knees. Slowly open out your top elbow, allow your body to follow. Keep your knees together as your chest opens up to face the ceiling. Take three deep breaths, then return to the starting position.
The Benefits Of Pilates For Gym-Goers
Getting sweaty in your strength or HIIT sessions can leave you breathless. Pilates allows you to achieve a deeper kind of breathing, and supports your pelvic floor and diaphragm to help you breathe more efficiently.
Taking time to drop out of your fight-or-flight mode (sympathetic) after your workout, in which the body produces more adrenaline, into your rest-and-relax mode (parasympathetic) allows you to focus, make better decisions and become less reactive and more calm.
Try this Pilates breathing exercise to calm your nervous system.
Top exercise to try: Breathing
Find a comfortable position to lie in, support your head with a cushion and take ten breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Keep your hands on your rib cage and feel the ribs expand on the inhale and allow your body to “drop” – your ribs move away from your hands – on the exhale. Allow the exhale to get a little bigger each time.
- Five Pilates Exercises For Beginners
- Pilates Stretches for Runners
- This Beginner Pilates Workout Will Improve Your Posture
- Use This Pilates Workout At Home To Strengthen Your Core
The Benefits Of Pilates For Runners
Being aware of your posture is a must if you want to be an efficient runner. Pilates brings your attention to your body and connects your mind to your movement. Your back and joint health can be affected by the impact of running and Pilates is a great way to strengthen your abdominal wall and help support the structure of your skeleton.
Top exercise to try: Glute bridge
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Imagine you have a clock face on top of your pelvis. Twelve o’clock is the highest point – your bellybutton – and six o’clock is the lowest point – your pubic bone.
Gently start to tilt your pelvis towards 12, pushing through your feet to lift your hips. Aiming for as little tension in the neck as possible, slowly bring your spine back to the floor one vertebrae at a time. You should feel it in your bum and the back of your legs. If you feel any strain in your lower back you may have taken your hips too high.
The Benefits Of Pilates For Men
Pilates is great for both men and women of course, but it’s men who seem to need more convincing to get involved with the practice. Here’s Jonathan Caguioa (opens in new tab), Pilates trainer at BLOK (opens in new tab), to explain how Pilates can help reduce back pain and improve your performance in the gym.
“One of the great benefits of Pilates for men is that it creates and maintains length and strength in the muscles surrounding your spine,” says Caguioa. “Not only can this help relieve back and neck pain, but it also gives you a better foundation for weight training.
“Also, a common mistake when training abdominals is allowing the pelvic floor and abdominal wall to dome, causing the abs to round outwards. Fundamental Pilates technique will train you to maintain lateral breath and draw the abdominals in and around to protect your spine.”
Top exercise to try: The hundred
“This is a great warm-up exercise. Try it at the beginning of a workout or once you have done a few stretches,” says Caguioa.
“Lie on your back, lift your legs into tabletop position – with your knees bent at 90° and positioned over your hips – and stretch your arms towards the ceiling. Inhale, then as you exhale, stretch your legs out in front of you, curl your head and shoulders up and reach your arms forwards. Draw your abdominals down toward the mat. Maintain a ‘long’ spine on the mat and avoid arching your lower back. Pulse your arms up and down five inches (13cm), inhaling for five pulses and exhaling for five pulses.
“Repeat 10 times, keeping your breathing regular and in time with the pulses, giving you a total of 100 pulses with the arms. You can make it harder by lowering your legs closer to the mat, or make it easier by keeping your legs in tabletop position. You can also support your neck by keeping one hand behind your head, swapping which hand you use during the move.”
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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