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Does exercise improve your mental health?
Control, centering, concentration, flexibility, posture and relaxation. 
 
These are just some of the reasons why Pilates is good for you. 
 
Since 1920, people have been using Pilates as a way to strengthen core muscles, fix posture and increase flexibility. 
 
It’s also said to improve your mental health as well as your physical health which is always a bonus. 
 
Here’s everything you need to know. 

What is Pilates? 

Pilates is a series of low impact exercises designed to help strengthen the core, increase flexibility and improve posture and alignment. It was originally designed for athletes, dancers and soldiers. However Pilates today has been modified to be accessible to pretty much anyone. Pilates is very holistic as it focuses on the connection between the body, mind and breath. 
 
They’re usually repetitive exercises done on a mat, floor or other equipment and promote strength, stability and flexibility. 
 
It’s safe to do every day and it’s good to get into a rhythm of doing it as often as you can. It’s not a sport and there’s no competition involved. The idea is that it’s an exercise that lets you go at your own pace, helping you to relax, develop and strengthen your body. 
 
There’s two different types of Pilates you can commonly get involved in; 
Chart showing mental health increase

Mat based Pilates 

This is all done on the floor, using gravity and your weight as resistance. 
 
It’s one of the most accessible ways to do Pilates as it can be done from anywhere, even in your office! 
 
If you’re in need of instruction there are plenty of videos, DVDs and classes to follow, meaning if you’re not fond of the gym you can do it at home instead. 
 
That said most people prefer to go to classes that can often take place in other locations. We talk about getting qualified to teach Pilates below. 

Equipment based Pilates 

This type uses specific equipment to increase resistance. 
 
This is usually done by spring-loaded resistance equipment or another tool like resistance bands. 
 
If this is more the type of Pilates you’re after it would be easier to do at a gym as they have all the equipment there for you, but it can still be done at home. 

What are the health benefits of Pilates? 

According to the NHS website, Pilates can help improve, 

Posture 

Feeling bent out of shape? 
 
Pilates can fix that. It can improve the stability of your spine and help relieve tension around your muscles. 
 
For many of us, working day in day out on a screen can mean increased slouching. This of course is not the best posture and Pilates helps to improve it, strengthening your muscles in the process. 

Muscle Tone 

As Pilates directly targets the core and the abdominal muscles it’s hugely effective at muscle toning. 
 
As well as toning, it also strengthens your muscles, mainly targeting the lower back, hips and buttocks. 

Balance and joint mobility 

Like Yoga (more on that below) it also helps with your balance and coordination because you’re gradually becoming more aware of your body. 
 
The exercises also improve muscular control of your back and limbs. 

Relieving stress and tension 

Pilates movements will help relax all the built-up tension in your shoulders, neck and upper back. Like many other exercises, it’s also proven to reduce stress and improve your stamina and resilience. 
 
So if you are having a stressful day or if you can just feel it in your bones, go to a Pilates class. You never know how much it could help you! 

Rehabilitation or prevention of injuries related to muscles imbalances 

Pilates was originally created as a rehabilitation process. 
 
So if you are struggling with a muscle imbalance or if you just need to improve your physical coordination and balance, it would be a great exercise option. 
 
It’s also great for the rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries and it can help prevent muscular injuries. Particularly if your job is straining your muscles or making you feel drained and weak. 
 
Pilates can help strengthen your muscles and get you back into fighting shape. 

Mental health benefits 

We mentioned above that Pilates has mental health benefits as well as physical ones. 
 
This is partly due to the increased self-awareness and control you will achieve. When exercising in general your body releases endorphins, but normal exercise can get boring and repetitive. Pilates on the other hand is enjoyable and relaxing and certainly not exhausting, whilst still giving you great results. 
 
Pilates instructors will promote a healthy lifestyle in general so it can contribute to getting out of unhealthy habits and, as we mentioned above, it can help with stress management. 
 
The awareness you will feel by using breath control and mindful thinking will help to relieve stress and help to improve sleeping habits. 

What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga? 

Pilates and Yoga are similar activities and people who do one often do the other as well. It will be no surprise that Pilates is inspired by Yoga, but there are still some key differences. 
 
One way they differ is that Pilates is based on putting yourself into unstable postures and challenging your body by moving your limbs, whereas Yoga is a series of static postures. 

Who Invented Pilates? 

Time for a bit of history. Pilates was invented in 1920 when Joseph Pilates moved to America and opened his first body conditioning gym. 
 
Ever since then, it has caught on like wildfire. 
 
He created Pilates because he had asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, so was looking for something to help with the rehabilitation of his conditions. As it happens there are many conditions it can help with. 
 
People have reported assistance with osteoporosis, back pain and arthritis. Some of the first people to get treated by Pilates were soldiers coming back from war and dancers who used it to treat pain, aches and help strengthen their bodies. 

Who can get involved in Pilates? 

Pilates has a reputation for attracting certain groups of people and this is partly because it is an inclusive alternative for middle-aged, elderly, and pregnant women. However, anyone can get involved. 
 
It’s super fun and can be done at a relaxed pace, so regardless of your fitness level there’s a way in. Pilates is great for any age range and fitness level, so there’s no need to worry about not being fit enough for the class. 
 
If you do have any concerns about taking part, be sure to contact your GP before attending a class. 

What If I want to teach pilates? 

Because of its popularity, there’s also a demand for coaching and classes. If you want to be a fitness professional you may be wondering if this is an area you could specialise in. The good news is there are no specific entry requirements, but some fitness experience would be recommended. 
 
Here at Sportsability, we offer a Level 3 Diploma in Instructing Pilates, Mat Work, which would provide you with what you need to instruct people in Pilates. 
 
To find out more about this course and what will be covered, click here 
 
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