Improve Your Body with Pilates

If you’re following the South Beach Diet, you’re already working on creating a healthier lifestyle by making sure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to get into top shape. In addition to maintaining a wholesome diet, incorporating regular functional exercise, like Pilates (pronounced “pah-LAH-tees”), into your routine can help take your health and fitness to the next level.

Whether you want to build your core, strengthen your muscles without adding bulk, improve your flexibility, or maintain a sleek physique, Pilates is a great exercise option. Joseph Pilates, who developed this method of body conditioning in the 1920s, designed the workouts to strengthen “the core” — the muscles of the abdomen, back, pelvis, and hips — through targeted exercises, focused breathing, and body awareness.

Never tried Pilates? It’s a great time to get started. Many gyms, recreation centers, and health clubs offer a variety of Pilates classes for beginners and seasoned athletes alike, using different equipment and methods. If you prefer one-on-one instruction, you may want to consider joining a specialized Pilates studio. And with so many Pilates workout DVDs available, you also have the option of practicing at home. Be sure to interchange core workouts, including Pilates, with cardio interval exercise on alternate days.

Additional Benefits of Pilates

The breathing exercises that are done as part of a Pilates workout can improve the flow of oxygen through your bloodstream and help relieve stress and anxiety. In addition, Pilates improves your range of motion, posture, balance, and coordination. As a result, Pilates can enhance your fitness and help prevent injuries that could be incurred from lifting, bending, and climbing stairs. Some studies suggest that Pilates, which is low-impact, can be used to help treat orthopedic injuries, such as lower-back pain, by counteracting the effects of muscular imbalances. And it is often recommended for people with arthritis. As with any form of exercise, always get a doctor’s approval before beginning Pilates, particularly if you haven’t been working out or you have an existing ailment.

Pilates Equipment

When Joseph Pilates first developed this method of exercise, he based some of the workouts on a piece of equipment called the Reformer, which is a bedlike contraption with a padded sliding platform that uses pulleys and springs to create resistance. One-on-one Pilates classes are still taught using the Reformer and other machines, but there are also group classes that use a mat, free weights, exercise bands, and a Pilates ring (also known as the Magic Circle), which is a flexible plastic ring with a rubber shell that provides resistance to help condition your core.

Many people prefer using the Reformer because it offers more resistance and support, but the mat allows more flexibility when doing the different poses. Expert trainers recommend taking one or two classes at a studio or gym to get acquainted with the exercises before purchasing a DVD for home use. Similar to yoga, Pilates is done barefoot while wearing comfortable, fitted clothing.

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