Five Reasons Why We Love Pilates
By Sandra Stratton-Rusch
Every day, people are wandering into Pilates studios, situating themselves on gliding tables, and experiencing a work-out that leaves them refreshed and happy. What is this exercise and why is it becoming so popular? Here we look at five reasons why.
First, taking the mystery out of Pilates
Many people are intimidated when they think of Pilates. There’s the strange table with springs and pulleys. There are moving components and straps of different lengths and widths. It can be unnerving.
In explanation, Pilates is a system of controlled movements on a specially designed apparatus. Participants position themselves on the chairs and tables, and use the pulleys and straps to pull their body weight, working and toning the entire body evenly. Created by Joseph Pilates, the method improves flexibility, builds strength, and develops control and endurance for a full-body work out.
That sounds positive and great. But what does that really mean? And why do people love it? The reasons are plenty!
1. It strengthens and lengthens
Unlike traditional weight lifting, Pilates strengthens both the large muscles and the tiny muscles surrounding them. This lengthens the appearance of muscles and improves overall alignment. Imbalances go away, posture improves, and people actually feel taller.
2. Pilates is fitness based -- Not dance based
When Joseph Pilates’ contraptions were first being developed, they were discovered by dancers, who quickly realized that Pilates movements could both build strength and help them recover from injuries. Because of this, Pilates fell into the dance family, and as such, it’s been practiced in studios, it’s appealed to more women than men, and it’s often grouped with classes like Yoga or aerobics.
Since then, Pilates has evolved to become more of a means of fitness and athleticism. People are recognizing that it’s not just for dancers – it’s for all people who want to be fit.
3. It’s easy to be consistent
With any fitness routine, it can be difficult to keep going, stay motivated, and not get burned out. In my 30 years of teaching Pilates, I can say that Pilates stands apart from other approaches. It’s an experiential exercise, which means you have to experience it to know what it’s like, and once you do, it’s easy to get hooked. People find it fun and invigorating. The movements are soothing and stress-relieving, and people work muscles – large and small – without realizing it.
4. There are options – Mat or Reformer
Another thing people love about Pilates is that there are options in how the classes are offered. Pilates Reformer uses the power of the tables, chairs, and towers to guide people through the exercises and provide support for doing specific movements and stretches.
Pilates can still be practiced without the Reformer through Mat Pilates. Mat Pilates involves the same movements, just without the additional support of the equipment. Which one you pick is a matter of preference and budget (At the YMCA, Pilates Reformer classes involve additional fees, whereas unlimited Mat Pilates classes are included with YMCA membership).
5. It makes people happy
Finally, the biggest reason people love Pilates is that it simply makes them happy. It alleviates pain and perfects imbalances. It aligns the mind and body and promotes better sleep. Pilates routines change regularly, so it continues to be a challenge. Yet it’s not a daunting workout that turns people away. I see it every day when I teach: People are happy to come to class, and even happier when they leave feeling healthier and taller!
For me personally, Pilates has helped me recover from a serious car/bike crash. And it’s helped me stay strong and fit throughout my adult life – I’m 65! I love to do it, I love to teach, and I love to share the power of Pilates with others. If you’ve ever considered giving it a try, do not let the tables and pulleys intimidate you. Come into a studio, and discover all the reasons you’ll love it too.
Sandra Stratton-Rusch, M.A., has been introducing people to the benefits of Pilates for over 25 years. She is a Certified Precision Nutrition Coach, Certified ACE Personal Trainer, and Certified PMA Pilates Instructor. Sandy teaches at the Littleton Family YMCA.