Anyone who has been practicing pilates for a while will be familiar with the vast physical and mental benefits it can have, but those who are just considering taking it up may not realise how beneficial it can be. Whether it’s keeping us limber or helping our brains stay young, there are a lot of reasons to seriously consider taking up pilates. In this blog, we’re going to look at some of the most positive effects it can have.
Learning a new activity is a very effective way of increasing the amount of white matter in your brain. Any time you learn something new, whether it is a new language or a new skill such as painting, the density of white matter in your brain increases, leading to more effective communication between your neurons. Pilates is an example of an activity that is particularly beneficial, as there are always new and more challenging exercises for you to learn, meaning the production of white matter will keep on going.
Meditation has been shown to help alleviate a variety of negative mental conditions, such as anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia. But meditation does not have to involve sitting still and clearing your mind. As long as your mind is focused on one thing, such as a pilates exercise, it will get a break from whatever it is in your life that may be causing you anguish. This means that, when coupled with the benefits of increased white matter, pilates can be a very effective form of meditation.
Anne Bishop, Pilates and Biomechanics teacher, had this to say on the subject: “It really comes down to this. If it’s new, you’re changing your brain. Period. So whenever you learn something new, your brain changes, whether you learn to juggle, play the violin, practice crosswords. But at this point there is nothing inherently specific about Pilates. However there is research into Yoga. Inherent within Yoga is meditation and meditation has been shown to change the brain. So if you have a meditation component in class not only are you be changing your brain because you are learning a movement, but you’re also changing your brain through the meditation”
Any form of exercise will have an effect on the hormones in our bodies, and pilates is no exception. For starters, distracting your mind will not only slow down the production of stress hormones such as cortisol, it will also help them to metabolise. In addition to that, the physical exercise will release endorphins that make us feel happier, making the whole practice doubly effective at improving our mental state. To learn more about this, see our blog on the link between mental and physical health.
Despite the fact that it may not be the most strenuous form of exercise, the physical benefits of pilates need to be acknowledged. Pilates can help loosen up tight muscles, increase your flexibility, and ensure that the improvements to your levels of physical ability are spread evenly throughout your body. While other forms of exercise will often benefit one area more than the others, such as running strengthening your leg muscles, properly executed pilates will help your body as a whole improve. This can be particularly beneficial for people who may have underlying conditions that would preclude them from other forms of exercise, such as joint pain, or osteoporosis.
The untrained eye may see pilates as an easy form of exercise with limited benefits, but the reality is that it can be just as beneficial as any other workout, and even more so in some cases. While not everyone will have the patience or drive to properly commit to pilates, those who do will feel the mental and physical benefits almost immediately, and understand exactly why this exercise has taken the world by storm.