Surprising Types of People Pilates is Perfect For
When Joseph Pilates created his groundbreaking method of body conditioning, he envisioned people around the world doing his exercises, from childhood throughout adulthood. That means everybody—and every body—can and should do Pilates.
At my Pilates studio, I occasionally speak with people who’d like to try the method but don’t think it’s meant for them or worry that they can’t do it. To clear up those mistaken assumptions, here is a list five types of people who, in my 15 years’ experience, I have seen truly benefit from Pilates.
A common belief these days is that Pilates is for women—especially dancers—and even that Pilates was created for dancers. That myth is perpetuated by all the Pilates ads that show women doing dancer-type moves on a mat. No wonder men feel self-conscious about taking a Pilates class!
The truth is that Pilates was originally created for everybody, men and women. As a boxer and fencer, Joseph Pilates designed his method as a way of cross-training for the other types of exercise he enjoyed doing. He even designated certain exercises for men. There are many famous photos of him teaching men in his studio, and quite a few of his male clients went on to teach Pilates professionally for the rest of their lives.
My studio has a healthy number of men who attend class right alongside the women. They tell me Pilates has helped their golf game, eliminated their back pain, helped them run faster and better, and improved their flexibility.
Men also tend to assume Pilates is easy, or that it can’t be effective since it doesn’t involve heavy weights. But Pilates trains the body from the inside out, rather than most forms of exercise that work the superficial, large muscles. And it’s those deep, intrinsic muscles that, once toned, create changes in our other sports, our posture, and ultimately our quality of life.
2. Senior Citizens
Joseph Pilates lived well into his 80s, and some of his former students are still alive today, practicing and even teaching the method. Pilates is the perfect exercise for seniors because it improves joint mobility and flexibility and is non-impact. It’s a great way to keep arthritic joints moving.
I see a nice variety of ages in my classes; they’re not just full of young, flexible people. And my senior students tell me how much they’ve benefitted from Pilates. Just the other day, one said he can touch his toes for the first time in years.
There are also the mental and psychological benefits. Studies associate longevity with continuously learning new skills, and a studio setting is a wonderful place to socialize, an activity important to seniors’ happiness.
3. Overweight People
Recently a friend told me she was considering taking a Pilates class—but, she said, “I need to lose some weight first.” That struck me as an odd statement, yet it’s not uncommon. There’s a perception that everyone who does Pilates is thin and extremely flexible. This couldn’t be further from the truth. People of all shapes and sizes attend classes and benefit from Pilates.
In fact, Pilates equipment is particularly beneficial to overweight people, as it supports and assists the exercise movements. The springs, pulleys and bars guide the arms and legs and hold the body in alignment so the back is supported while the core is being worked. Pilates is just about the safest and easiest way to exercise if your weight has been holding you back from joining a gym.
4. People Recovering from Injury
Many people start Pilates after surgery or recovery from an injury as a way to build back strength. While Pilates is exercise and not physical therapy, it’s the perfect way to exercise mindfully when in recovery because it is so biomechanically sound. The equipment holds the body in correct alignment while the springs assist movement and create resistance at the same time. The order of exercises in Pilates puts the body through all planes of movement during the hour, to ultimately recreate balance throughout. Pilates re-strengthens, realigns and rebalances the body in a way that no other exercise method really does.
I recently saw an article titled “Sitting is the New Smoking.” When we sit all day at work, we end up with tight muscles, low-back pain and neck pain. Pilates is the opposite of all that. The exercises simultaneously stretch the tight spots and strengthen the weak spots—-the ultimate multitasking exercise method. After a full hour of both stretching and strengthening, the body comes into balance and feels good again.
With a regular Pilates practice, the mind-body connection becomes progressively stronger. Pretty soon, even people who have to sit most of the day will do so with better posture and a stronger core connection. Just as Joseph Pilates envisioned, the Pilates Method is for every body.
Elaine Ewing is a Pilates teacher and owner of Rhinebeck Pilates, a classical Pilates studio located at 6400 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck, NY. Her studio is equipped with Gratz equipment and offers private sessions as well as tower, reformer and mat classes. For more info, call the studio at 845.876.5686 or visit RhinebeckPilates.com.