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7 health benefits of practicing Pilates

When you listen to Pilates, you may think of long, lean, toned muscles. Research suggests that Pilates has other benefits as well.

You may know Pilates as an exercise program that builds long, lean muscles and a particularly strong core. This program uses 50 different exercises to increase muscular strength and endurance, as well as improve balance, flexibility, and posture, according to previous research. Pilates has a positive effect on the health of most voluntary muscles (skeletal muscles that you control) in the body, primarily the larger muscles. Helps stretch and strengthen the muscles of the forearm, arm, neck and back, hips, thighs and legs.

But it can also provide other, lesser-known benefits that you may not notice when looking in the mirror. Here are seven health benefits associated with Pilates.

1. Improved balance, strength and flexibility in the elderly

With an emphasis on working the core, Pilates exercises can help improve body balance. But that’s not all: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials showed that Pilates improved dynamic balance, lower extremity strength, hip and lower back flexibility, and endurance heart disease in adults over 60 years of age. Pilates training doesn’t have to be fancy, either. Another systematic review and meta-analysis noted that Pilates is safe and affordable, as the only equipment needed is a mat.

2. Lower risk of falls

Improving physical function can also help protect against falls, which are a common cause of emergency room visits among older adults each year. Pilates works the muscles in your arms, legs, and core, which includes your neck and upper and lower back. It gives agility and strength to our body, which helps us both in our daily activities and in our recreational activities. With better balance, strength, flexibility, and functionality, older people can significantly reduce their risk of falling, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ultimately, it can help seniors live independently longer. And while other exercises can have the same effects, some research suggests that Pilates has an advantage in this regard. A randomized controlled trial found that while any physical activity can improve balance and strength, which can reduce the risk of falls, Pilates has a greater effect than a general fitness program.

3. Lower risk of injury

Pilates helps strengthen core muscles and stabilize the body, which can reduce the risk of injury. This includes potentially reducing the risk of overuse injuries in athletes and active adults and children. A study published in August 2017 in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that when recreational runners completed a six-week Pilates program, they saw an improvement in functional movement (measured by deep squat, hurdle step, and lunge), which that helps reduce the risk of running-related injuries, the researchers said. In another small study, published in the February 2020 Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, eight teens completed an eight-week Pilates program. Participants increased muscle mass and core and shoulder strength. The researchers concluded that it will not only improve performance, but could also help prevent future injuries.

4. Less lower back pain

One of the most important benefits to prevent back pain is to take care of the trunk. This is where Pilates comes in: building a strong and stable core is at the heart of practicing Pilates. A systematic review found that practicing Pilates for 6 to 12 weeks provided short-term pain reduction in patients with chronic low back pain. The researchers recommended two to three one-hour Pilates sessions per week for the most benefit.

5. Fight stress and improve mood

For most people, low-intensity exercise like Pilates helps reduce stress. Et les recherches le confirment : Selon une étude porant sur 63 participants obèses ou en surpoids, des séances de Pilates d’une heure, trois fois par semaine pendant huit semaines, ont eu un impact positif sur l’anxiété, la dépression et la qualité of life. Part of that could be because Pilates forces you to focus on your body, rather than what’s going through your mind. According to a study (PDF), Pilates is a mind-body exercise that requires attention to breathing, posture, and movement control.

6. A more efficient brain

Pilates has also been shown to have a positive effect on mental acuity. A study of 110 Spanish women over the age of 60 found that a three-month Pilates program improved verbal fluency and executive functions, as shown in a test that included timed visual and motor tasks. The researchers also found physical improvements, including better lower-body strength and increased functional flexibility. But it should be noted that they found no improvements in other measures of cognitive function (including language, attention and calculation, memory, orientation and registration) among the study participants. The study researchers noted that their research focused on short-term results and that future research should investigate the effect of long-term Pilates practice on the brain.

7. Better symptom management for people with Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease can cause motor difficulties, but Pilates can remedy this. A study and meta-analysis showed that Pilates helped Parkinson’s disease patients improve fitness, balance, and functional independence, with specific benefits for the lower body. The researchers concluded that Pilates may be prescribed to treat people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease.

How long does it take to see the benefits?

The answer to this question depends on the individual, their starting point and their goals. For example, the aforementioned systematic review on low back pain noted positive changes after a cumulative 20 hours of Pilates. This corresponds to 10 weeks of two one-hour sessions per week. In general, you can expect to see benefits after six to eight weeks of practicing Pilates twice a week. If you want to practice Pilates more often, feel free. You only risk overdoing it if your form is compromised. According to Milton, as long as you use the proper technique and engage the correct muscles, you shouldn’t injure yourself.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information provided can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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