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Pilates practitioners swear by the method, and in some circles, it almost reaches cultlike status. It is true that there are many benefits to Pilates, but some of the benefits, even if they do occur, are unproven in research.
Before I go further, I want to state that I believe that Pilates can be a great workout.
It can help strengthen and tone muscles, improve flexibility, and the movements on the machines can be challenging and fun. It also has the potential to be an intense workout since the movements are slow, controlled, and deliberate.
I refer individuals to Pilates who 1 are looking for an alternative or complement to weight lifting, 2 might need supervised resistance-exercise sessions, or 3 want a change of pace and would like to try something new.
The claims The following claims are stated on the Stott Pilates web site.
For instance, it states on the Stott web site that there are more preparatory warm-up exercises than the original work by Joseph Pilates. Stott Pilates is widely taught throughout the U.
Longer, leaner muscles less bulk, more freedom of movement You can increase the flexibility of muscles and the physical sensation may even be that they feel longer, but in order for muscles to lengthen, the bones they attach to must lengthen as well, and no exercise lengthens bones. In fact, exercise might increase it.
Research shows that intramuscular fat is elevated in athletes and that it is used immediately for fuel during exercise. Improves postural problems In one three-month study with 47 adults who practiced Pilates mat work one time per week for three months, the subjects reported that their posture felt improved at the end of the study perhaps the result of pulling their shoulder blades togetherbut their height, which was used to assess postural improvement, did not change.
In a more thorough postural assessment in a study of 24 females who did either traditional weight training or the Pilates Reformer machine for 12 weeks, results showed that both groups responded almost identically with moderate changes in posture.
There is a very small sample of studies on posture and Pilates, and so more research should be done before a general claim can be made that Pilates actually improves posture. Increases core strength, stability and peripheral mobility To measure core strength properly, electromyography should be used.
Electromyography EMG is a test that measures muscle activity and the nerves controlling the muscles. It is similar to an EKG machine that you might see on TV only it measures electrical activity in the muscles and not the heart.
An EMG can detect how active a muscle is, and when a test is performed before and after a study, it can detect whether the treatment had any effect.
I located one EMG study that measured the effect of Pilates on three superficial core muscles: These muscles were tested during five Pilates abdominal exercises and were compared to a general crunch.
This is good news since the crunch is one of the gold standards of abdominal exercises and other exercises are typically measured against it. Pilates has been shown to moderately improve flexibility, therefore, it can improve peripheral mobility mobility of the limbs.
Helps prevent injury There is no evidence that Pilates helps prevent injury. Pilates has been shown to moderately improve flexibility, but not even flexibility has been proven to prevent injury. Enhances functional fitnessease of movement Functional fitness refers to how strength, power, endurance, and flexibility affect your function during activities of daily living shopping, carrying packages, housework, etc.
For instance, as the result of increased strength, you might carry packages and climb stairs with less effort. The only problem is that there is no research to support the claim that Pilates enhances functional fitness.
An important question is if Pilates increases strength or flexibility more than other types of exercise for example, traditional resistance exercise. Only one study that I am aware of compared the two.
Heightens body awareness Body awareness and Pilates has never been studied. There are scales to measure body awareness, such as the Body Awareness Questionnaire, but there are no studies to my knowledge that have used it with Pilates.
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My guess is that it does increase body awareness because as people start moving more they certainly get more in touch with how their body feels. And Pilates instructors are certainly well trained to help prompt and cue you to focus on your muscles as you perform the exercises.
If it does nothing else, it certainly teaches you to think about how your muscles are working while doing the exercises.
An interesting question would be whether Pilates would have an additional body-awareness effect on already conditioned individuals with high body awareness, or would the effect, if there is one, be limited to sedentary couch potatoes.
No-impact, easy on the joints Pilates is definitely low impact as far as the joints are concerned. There is no pounding like there is with some aerobic activities, because many of the Pilates exercises are performed on your back or your belly.
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