Why Pilates Matters for Women

Why Pilates Matters for Women

Last time, we talked about strength–why it matters, how to build strength generally through weight training, and how it benefits us, women. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it here.

 

We also mentioned how lifting weights won’t magically transform you into an extremely muscular Amazon warrior (it takes a lot of time and discipline to get to that level!). But if weight training isn’t your cup of tea–don’t fret. 


While weight training is one of the obvious ways to build strength, it isn’t the only way to build strength. Yup. That’s right. There are numerous ways for you to build strength without having to grab a pair of dumbbells or load up weight on a barbell. “How,” you may ask? 

 

Let’s think about it for a second. Every time you get out of bed, stand up from a chair, climb up the stairs, or balance on your toes while reaching for an item above you, do those movements require strength?

 

Ding! Ding! Ding! 

Yes, of course, they do.

 

Every time you do any of those activities, you are using strength to carry a specific weight called bodyweight. And these days, multiple exercises focus on bodyweight movements that can help build strength. 


We can go on and on about those different types of exercises but for this article, we’ll focus on one specific exercise called Pilates.

Debunking Pilates Myths

Before we dive into what Pilates is and why it matters, we should tackle the most common misperceptions about Pilates.

One well-known myth about Pilates is that it’s a “woman’s exercise.” 


Whether it’s because Pilates doesn’t require weights or it doesn’t result in heavy-built muscles we see on bodybuilders, it doesn’t mean that Pilates is a “lesser” form of exercise, made only for women. 

 

Historically, a man called Joseph Pilates invented the exercise. According to Balanced Body, Joseph Pilates was “enamored by the classical Greek ideal of a man balanced in body, mind, and spirit, and he began to develop his own exercise system based on this concept.” What we can take from that quote is that a man invented Pilates to achieve the ideal man, which can also mean that Pilates was made for men. It is a wrong thing to assume then that Pilates is a woman’s exercise only.

 

Another myth about Pilates is that it’s an “easy” exercise that anyone can do. 

 

While anyone, regardless of their fitness level, can practice Pilates, we wouldn’t say that it’s “easy” to a point where you wouldn’t be challenged, breathless, or sweating after a class. 

 

Some movements in Pilates require an instructor’s cues and guides to ensure that you’re doing the poses and movements correctly to prevent injury.

Now that we’ve thrown the most popular misconceptions of Pilates out the window, what exactly is Pilates?

What is Pilates?

To have an idea of what Pilates is, here’s a quick rundown of what the exercise consists of:

 

Bodyweight exercise

 

As we’ve mentioned before, Pilates focuses on movements that don’t require weights. Most, if not all, movements would require core activation and would target lower back muscles. 

 

Also, by using springs in the Reformer, Chair and Cadillac, that creates “resistance” when using the machines.  

 

Although Pilates is mostly known for building core strength, practicing Pilates continuously would result in better mobility, flexibility, posture, and the more obvious result: toned muscles.

 

Low-impact movements

 

Pilates consists of low-impact movements which means that it won’t require you to put a lot of strain on your joints and muscles. Movements are controlled and measured and would incorporate breath work techniques which would require mental focus and stability. 

 

This is a reason why, according to Cleveland Clinic, Pilates was picked up by the dance community. 

 

Its low-impact movements allow dancers to use certain muscles that will prevent them from getting injured and are also being used as a method of recovery when recently injured.

 

Accessibility

 

When it comes to fitness, accessibility is important. 

 

Pilates can also be considered as an accessible exercise since it can be practiced at home, in the gym, or in a studio where the only thing that you’ll need is a mat or blanket. 

 

Apart from movements that would require a machine called the reformer, which you’d usually find in a studio, you can practice Pilates anytime and anywhere you want.

Why Pilates Matters for Women

Now that we have an idea of what Pilates is, let’s zero in on some of the reasons why it matters for us, women. 

 

Reduces menstrual pain

 

Whether you’re regular, irregular, or on birth control, we’ve experienced it one way or another: menstrual pain. However, it doesn’t have to be as painful as it usually is. Some studies show that continuous practice of Pilates can help reduce menstrual pain and we think it’s time that we bid menstrual pain goodbye.

 

Strengthens pelvic floor muscles

 

The pelvic floor muscles are responsible for controlling the release of urine, feces, and wind, which could be especially tricky for pregnant women. Along with the added weight, pregnant women are also more prone to lower back pain. And, sadly this can also lead to uterus prolapse. 

 

According to POGP or Pelvic Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy Group, “Pilates-based exercises in women’s health encourage the pelvic floor muscles to work with the deep tummy muscles to build up the stability and strength of your trunk. A well supported trunk will help protect your spine and may lessen low back pain.”


Although Pilates movements can be modified, it’s best to consult with your doctor first before continuing with your practice.

 

Improves body awareness and boosts energy

As we’ve mentioned before, movements in Pilates would require mental focus and stability. It is nearly impossible to hold a certain pose or perform a movement properly if your mind and body are not in sync.

 

According to Healthline, “​​Pilates is a mind-body practice that enhances proprioception, or body awareness. The attention inward and ability to focus on the sensations in your body heightens your awareness of comfort or pain, your emotions, and your surrounding environment…Better body awareness may even help you prevent overeating, as you’ll be more in tune with your body’s hunger signals

 

And just like after finishing a workout, Pilates can also boost your mood and help reduce stress by releasing the happy hormone, endorphins.

 

Given today’s stressful environment where everyone feels they should be “on” the whole time, taking the time to connect with how your body is feeling and moving can be good for mental health. 

When to start

Whether you’re starting on your fitness journey, want to build strength (without intimidating weights), or looking for a different type of exercise, Pilates just might be the low-impact, bodyweight exercise that you’re looking for.

 

And now is always the best time to start. 





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