Long lean muscles. Abs of Steel. An extra 2 inches in height… All things I have genuinely heard discussed in relation to Pilates. All completely achievable with time and effort but realistically are these the primary benefits? No.
So what can you expect from regular Pilates? Well Mr Pilates himself used to say “after 10 sessions you will feel better, after 20 sessions you will look better, and after 30 sessions you will have a whole new body” and I would say that this is realistic with a few caveats!
1. This requires practice to be regular and consistent – i.e. more than once a week.
2. Don’t take the claims at face value – when he says you will look different, this may not mean a new 6 pack and 3 stone weight loss! It could mean you are sitting more upright or that your shoulders no longer slump forwards. Having said that, I do believe that weight loss and 6 packs are possible when the principles of Pilates are added to other activities. Pilates makes you feel better in your body and movement is more efficient making weight loss and 6 packs far more achievable.
3. A whole new body doesn’t always mean aesthetics. It can mean you no longer use your shoulders for balance but instead recruit your core. It could mean your knees are moving more efficiently now you have balanced out the musculature. It can mean the way you feel, not just the way you look.
A whole new body can mean all kind of things but I can vouch that VERY often it FEELS like a whole new body when the process clicks.
People come to Pilates for a whole host of reasons and everyone’s benefits are going to be different. For some just reaching their feet to put their socks on is a big goal. For others the Pilates practice is going to help them gain strength and support to perform a sport they love. The benefits completely depend on the requirements. However there are some “across the board” benefits that I see time and again.
All exercise and movement boosts energy levels and Pilates is no different. From a wellbeing perspective Pilates is particularly good for your mood and energy levels because of the mind-body connection and requirement to spend time thinking about how you move. The deep, rhythmical breath cycles during a pilates class can certainly give you a boost in energy but most important is learning to move correctly allowing your body to expend energy more efficiently.
Pain free and increased range of movement
A happy side effect of Pilates should be an increased range of “pain free” movement. Teaching your body how to engage the correct muscles in the correct order is key to increasing a pain free range of movement. When you are pain free, you have more energy (see note above) making the journey into increasing strength, improving posture and gaining flexibility more likely.
Body awareness increases
In Pilates we move mindfully. We think about how best to move and how to recruit the best muscles groups for that movement. We learn to support movement with our bodies so we begin to move with much more grace and balance.
As I said, everyone has different outcomes and aims for their practice but one thing is for sure, with regular and consistent practice everyone will see and feel positive results.