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Obesity And Exercise: An Overview Of Pilates

woman doing pilates stretch using pilates machine reformer bed

Although it has been around for a few decades, Pilates has grown in popularity in the past few years. The inventor of this exercise—Joseph Pilates—was sickly during his childhood in Germany. 

However, he began exercising and remained physically fit for the remainder of his life. Although he tried everything from gymnastics, boxing, bodybuilding and self-defense to circus performance, he is best remembered for the method of exercise he developed.

What Is Pilates?

Pilates is a series of exercises, some of which use special devices. When performing Pilates, the goal is to keep movements controlled. Proper performance of Pilates involves aligning one’s spine and controlling breathing.

What Apparatuses Are Used In Pilates?

One of the most common devices used to perform Pilates is called the Reformer. Although Reformers can vary in how they are constructed, the basic functions are universal. The person’s body rests on the carriage, which looks like a flat platform. 

Because many Pilates exercises are done while in a reclining position, the Reformer will have a headrest and possibly padded blocks to keep the person’s shoulders from moving. The basic idea behind this machine is to use resistance (in the form of the person’s body weight and springs) to strengthen muscles. You can either push or pull your body weight to do so. 

Another device, the Cadillac, is mostly found in fitness centers, primarily because of its size. Sometimes called the “trapeze,” the base is a table (with legs and a padded top) that has a bar frame above it, looking somewhat like bunk beds. The bars that run parallel to the tabletop have different exercise (resistance) equipment hanging from them. Other devices include a Ladder Barrel, Chair, Tower and Mat.

How Can I Perform Pilates?

The best way to get started is to take a class at a local gym or community center. Although it is possible to watch a DVD or find videos online, especially during the beginning stage, it helps to have an instructor to correct improper form and avoid it becoming habitual. 

Breathing and posture are also important, and it will be helpful to have someone guide you on the most appropriate methods. As with any new type of exercise regimen, first consult your physician before you begin.

What Are The Benefits Of Pilates?

People who regularly practice Pilates report benefits like increased strength, improved endurance and better flexibility. Although it focuses on establishing and strengthening the “core,” Pilates exercises target all muscle groups, in an attempt to achieve balanced body conditioning.

Importantly, Pilates is considered to be, for the most part, a “low impact” exercise routine, which means that it not only reduces the likelihood of injury or burdening the joints, but also is often used for physical rehabilitation. 

Although there is disagreement about whether Pilates can truly provide the benefits of more intense forms of cardiovascular exercise, it is certainly considered a valuable complement to any workout program.

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