Saturday, May 14, 2011

How Pilates Can Help Your Weight Loss

Ah, weight loss. How many of us struggle with this seemingly simple thing! For those who struggle, it's not simple at all. If you're going to undertake a new exercise, it's natural to want to know whether or not that exercise will help you lose weight. Pilates can help with weight loss, especially if it customized to your weight-loss needs. Here are some ways how.

Cross Train

Experts recommend doing Pilates along with another kind of exercise, such as running, brisk walking, swimming, bicycling, and so forth. You don't do them at the same time, but it's a good idea to do a more cardio-intensive exercise in addition to Pilates. The Pilates can help tone the muscles as you lose fat, and it can also boost your metabolism. So the two types of exercises may work together to help you lose weight.

Use Weights

Adding weights to your Pilates workout can help boost the number of calories you burn. The sort of weights that you can strap on to your hands or ankles work best, according to practitioners.

Speed It Up

Pilates tends to be very slow and deliberate. This is intentional, of course; but for weight loss, you might want to speed things up a bit. Try a Pilates workout that you are familiar with, and do it both quickly and slowly so that you get all the benefits.

Body Alignment

It could be argued that an aligned body is a more efficient body. When your core muscles are engaged throughout the day, and you are careful to balance and maintain posture at all times, it may burn more calories than if you were sitting slumped all the time. Some natural health practitioners contend that the body just burns calories more efficiently when its skeletal and muscle systems are in line.


As simple as it sounds, it may not have occurred to you that you can simply to do Pilates more often! Instead of a few times a week, try to work it in daily. If you already do Pilates daily, add in another exercise as suggested above. And finally, you can also do Pilates more than once a day. In fact, some health experts think that short, frequent exercise throughout the day can boost metabolism and enhance weight loss.

The same principle applies to length of workouts. In other words, you can also do our Pilates workouts for longer.

Strong Muscles, Less Fat

Pilates is supposed to strengthen core muscles, and health experts agree that the more muscle you have, the more fat you'll burn. Toning and stretching muscles may help burn fat during and between workouts. After all, as Pilates teaches you to become more aware of your body, you may find yourself using those key muscles often throughout the day. This should boost fat burning.

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Seniors: Why You Should Try Pilates

Exercise for seniors is important, but many older folks are afraid of hurting themselves in high-impact, muscle-building workouts or hyperactive sweat-fests. This is understandable - seniors often need a different approach to exercise that their hearts, muscles, and joints can handle. Pilates may be just the thing.

A whole-body, low-impact exercise, Pilates focuses on "lengthening the spine" and strengthening the core muscle groups, but gently and with specific exercises. Many practitioners claim significant pain relief, which can be very attractive to seniors who often deal with daily pain from arthritis, old injuries, and other problems. Here are some other reasons why seniors should try Pilates.

Injury Avoidance

Strengthening the core muscles can lessen the chances of injury. For one thing, strong core muscles enhance balance, making a bone-breaking fall less likely. Also, the flexibility and strength of your muscles has much to do with how well your body handles impact. Tense, rigid, or weak muscles may increase injury risk.


Seniors in particular need to think about circulatory health. Age-related circulatory disorders and diseases can be irritating or debilitating - even deadly. Pilates is said to enhance circulation by relaxing muscles and engaging the whole body. Think of it as unwinding a garden hose - when the hose is tied up in knots, the water does not flow through it very well at all. But loosen up the hose and stretch it out, and the water runs through freely.

Easy on the Joints

Pilates is a low-impact exercise, meaning it does not involve bringing weight down on the joints in a hard or continual manner. For seniors who are concerned about falling or otherwise hurting themselves, this gentleness can make a big difference. Also, for seniors suffering from arthritis, a low-impact, flexibility-enhancing exercise like Pilates may help relieve pain, and is less likely to cause throbbing, post-exercise pain.

Mental Clarity

Perhaps because it may enhance circulation, Pilates is reputed to boost mental clarity as well. Seniors are sometimes plagued with frustrating "brain fog" or confusion, and Pilates may be able to relieve those frustrating maladies.

Reduce Bone Loss

The loss of bone mass is a concern for older adults, especially women. Pilates may help reduce this loss with its gentle weight-bearing exercises that focus on balance.

Increased Energy

How some seniors miss the energy of their youth! Pilates may not bring back the same feeling you had when you were 25, but it might just give you a much-needed energy boost. Pilates both relaxes and energizes the body, helping you achieve balance physically and mentally.

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Pilates for Stress Relief and Wellbeing

Pilates is not a religious practice, nor is it the same thing as meditation or Yoga. Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, who was plagued with physical problems as a child and developed a set of exercises and movements to promote his own physical wellbeing. He wanted to help others achieve a superior physical state, too, and shared and taught his exercises to many. He believed "the whole world" would benefit from his exercises.

Pilates is said to offer more than just physical strength, however. Stress relief is considered one of Pilates' positive effects. Here are some possible reasons as to why and how Pilates offers stress relief and overall wellbeing.

Pain Relief

When you're in pain, that alone is stressful. Chronic pain can be stressful to the point of debilitation. Joseph Pilates made the bold claim that he never needed an aspirin, and suggested that others who practiced his exercises wouldn't need any, either. While that radical a claim may not be for everyone, it does lend credence to the idea that Pilates relieves pain.

Pilates promotes body alignment and core muscle strength, as well as flexibility. Pilates also works toward "spine lengthening." This may explain why such exercises can relieve pain.

Many health and medical practitioners chalk chronic pain up to the body's misalignment, often aggravated or caused by tense muscles. They say that muscle tension can pull bones and joints (especially the spine) out of their correct positions. The body then tries to compromise with more muscle tension to pull the bones back where they belong. With its emphasis on relaxing the strengthening muscles, then, you can see how Pilates could relieve pain.

Cardiovascular Health

Circulation is reputed to be enhanced by the practice of Pilates. Perhaps this benefit could lower blood pressure and other stress-induced cardiovascular problems that, when left unaddressed, can be deadly. Healthy circulation can go a long way toward an overall sense of wellbeing.

Muscle Relaxation

As noted above, muscle relaxation and stretching is a key component of Pilates. The exercises are said to elongate muscles and increase strength as well as flexibility. As the body takes on stress during the day, flexibility and relaxed muscles can help deal with those stresses in a healthy way, before they can take hold of the muscles and get the body out of whack.

A strong-yet-flexible state of body can also affect the mind the same way - strong but flexible. That's the ideal state of mind and body for a sense of wellbeing.

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Pilates versus Yoga - What's the Difference?

It's not uncommon to wonder about the differences between these two disciplines. Some of the equipment, too, seems to cross over. Can you use a Yoga mat for Pilates? Is a Yoga ball the same thing as a balance ball? And how are the movements different? What about the effects - do they differ as well?

Here are some of the differences between Yoga and Pilates - the origin, movements, equipment, and effects.


Yoga is an ancient art that originated in India. Yoga and various versions of it have been practiced for thousands of years. Yoga was practiced as a sort of worship - it was (and often still is) considered part of a pathway to achieving a higher spiritual state.

Yoga was not originally intended to be practiced by just anyone who wanted to get in shape. On the other hand, Pilates originated in the 1920s, and was the creation of a German man named Joseph Pilates. His goals appeared to be entirely physical; he hoped everyone could achieve a superior body that was free from pain. Pilates was intended for anyone who could practice it.


Some say that Joseph Pilates was inspired by some of Yoga's moves, not unlike the way Bruce Lee developed his own brand of martial arts by mixing the aspects of various other arts and adding his own ideas to the mix.

However, Pilates is not considered a variation or branch of Yoga. Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles and lengthening the spine. It emphasizes both strength and flexibility, and sometimes uses specific workout machines. Yoga does not focus on a particular muscle group; its movements work all muscles essentially equally to achieve balance. Yoga does not involve specialized machines.


Pilates can involve some very specific, sometimes complicated-looking machinery. Pilates can also be done with just a mat and maybe a ball, like Yoga, which may explain some of the confusion between these two disciplines. Pilates classes and studios nearly always have special Pilates equipment, though. Perhaps ironically, Yoga involves more props than Pilates, such as wood blocks. Basically, it comes down to this:

* Yoga requires a mat and certain props, like wood blocks, blankets, or Yoga balls

* Pilates can be done with just a mat and an optional balance ball. It can also involve complicated Pilates machines developed specifically for the purpose of practicing Pilates.


Yoga incorporates spiritual elements into its practice. Yoga involves a certain lifestyle, meditation, and seeking a path to mental wellbeing. Originally, its end goal was to achieve Nirvana. Pilates, while still considered a "whole-body workout," does not involve spiritual elements. Pilates is about body conditioning and sculpting, alignment, and toning.

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Pilates and Pregnancy - Do's and Don'ts

Pilates is gaining popularity as an exercise that is good during pregnancy. Many advocates have stepped forward to tout Pilates as a means for increasing muscle flexibility, strength, and balance. Even enthusiasts, though, agree that there are some precautions you should take in undertaking Pilates during pregnancy. Here are some do's and don'ts to keep in mind.


* Check with you healthcare provider. Whether you are seeing a midwife, OBGYN, or family doctor during your pregnancy, make sure he or she is aware that you want to do Pilates. Your healthcare provider should support your decision to do Pilates; if not, don't go against his or her advice. There may be reasons why you shouldn't pursue Pilates while pregnant, even if you know others who have done it.

* Gently stretch your muscles. Your body naturally becomes more flexible during pregnancy anyway, and helping it along a little can be very helpful in facilitating labor. Gentle stretching is simply going with what your body is telling you to do - get limber!

* Strengthen core muscles. Pelvic floor, lower back, and abdominal muscles are key players during labor. Pilates focuses on these muscle groups.

* Look for specific pre-natal instruction if this is your first time doing Pilates. You might enroll in a pre-natal Pilates class, or use a DVD or internet clip specially geared toward pregnant women.

* Work on breathing. As anyone who has given birth can tell you, breathing deeply and calmly is essential to a more comfortable, effective labor. Pilates breathing exercises can help you with that.


* Stretch too hard. Your body is loosening its joints, and stretching your muscles to the point of pain can be harmful.

* Let yourself get winded. Experts suggest testing your limits this way: during your Pilates workout, you should be able to speak in a normal tone of voice without gasping and panting.

* Do exercises that require precise balance unless you have someone with you. Your center of gravity shifts when you're pregnant, and you have a different body posture when you stand upright. Exercises that seem easy or that you were able to do easily before can upset your balance when you're pregnant.

* Expect your moves to look or feel the same. Try not to get frustrated - embrace the difference in your body. It's doing what it's supposed to do, and it just is not the same as your non-pregnant body. Getting used to this idea beforehand can help ease the frustration or other negative feelings you might have as you find your body not cooperating like it used to.

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How Pilates Can Improve Your Running

Running and Pilates are two different exercises - running involves a rather high-impact, repeated motion while Pilates is low-impact and varied. However, Pilates is said to be an excellent complement to running. Here are some of the ways these two exercises can work in synergy.

Pilates and Posture

Pilates is said to improve posture by strengthening core muscles and making the practitioner aware of his or her body's position at any given time. Being aware of the body's alignment and posture can lower a runner's risk of injury. Being aware of correct posture can also reduce or prevent pain that may result from running. In other words, Pilates can help you run more effectively and safely.

Core Muscle Strength

As noted above, Pilates is geared toward strengthening the core muscle groups. These are the muscles in the trunk and hips, which include the deep back muscles and abdominals. They help you keep your balance when sitting or standing - in other words, you use them all the time without even realizing it.

If core muscles are weak in a runner, it may increase his or her risk of injury. It also might affect endurance adversely. Giving those core muscles strength may enhance posture and overall body stability.

Body Awareness

Pilates teaches body awareness - that is, you learn to recognize your body's position in space, how your muscles and joints feel, and how you can correct any problems. Being aware of one's body in this way may help runners gain insight into weaknesses that, if unaddressed, could increase the risk of injury.

For example, a runner who is unaware of his or her body may keep running when there is a physical problem, or something a bit "off." This can result in injury. A body-aware runner, however, might be more attuned to the body's warning signals and slow down or stop the run before the problem becomes an injury.


Surprisingly, breathing in a really health-promoting way is something many of us have to be taught. The deep breathing of Pilates may help runners with their overall lung capacity and function. Being able to take in oxygen and use it efficiently is key to successful running, and Pilates may help in that regard.

Whole Body Workout

Pilates works all muscle groups, so your runners' muscles will get a workout, too. It stands to reason that any activity that strengthens the muscles would help another activity that requires those muscles, but it's more than that. Pilates promotes the strength of specific muscles, and also emphasizes flexibility. Have muscles that are both strong and flexible can help prevent running injuries.

By Daily Health Tips

How Kids Can Benefit from Pilates

Childhood obesity is certainly a hot topic these days. There is no doubt that there is a problem - statistics continually show that more children are overweight than ever before. Children are also suffering from problems that do not have anything to do with obesity - asthma, allergies, autism, and other problems are increasing among children. How can Pilates help? Can kids benefit from these exercises? Here are some ideas as to how kids can benefit from Pilates.


It may seem ironic, but Pilates may help kids with sitting still in the classroom (or anywhere else). The muscles emphasized and strengthened in Pilates are the core muscles, which are key for correct posture. A child whose core muscles are flexible and strong will probably find it a lot easier to sit still for long periods, because it's more comfortable. Many times adults and children shift and fidget because of discomfort or even pain.

Weight Loss

While Pilates is not an intensive, cardiovascular workout, it can help promote weight loss. For one thing, time spent in a Pilates class is time not spent in front of the TV or computer, playing video games, or being otherwise engaged in sedentary activities. But Pilates itself can help children to lose weight and develop a leaner body. That's what muscle strengthening is alleged to do, and because Pilates focuses on muscles that you use all the time, the theory is that Pilates practitioners continue to burn calories at a greater rate between workout sessions.

Something for Everyone

Some children may be intimidated about starting sports or even just playing outside with others. It may seem to them that sports are only for the physically adept, and they don't want to be "the fat kid" on the team. Pilates, though, can accommodate anyone. All body types can do some form of Pilates, and it is not the exclusive realm of those with major athletic prowess. This can make it very attractive for kids who want to do something physically active, but who just aren't comfortable signing up for a sport.

Body Awareness

Pilates teaches body awareness. Children become aware of their position in space, and of possible bad physical habits (such as tending to raise their shoulders, or slumping in their chairs). This kind of awareness can benefit a child for a lifetime. He or she may be better able to detect possible injuries before they happen, and may develop a keen sense of when things are "out of whack." A child who is body aware should be able to tell when they're getting overweight and out of shape, too, because they will feel different.

Body Control

Teaching children to control their movements and bodies can prove invaluable. Not only could this enhance concentration (see Sitting above), but it also may also enable them to stop destructive physical behavior, such as hitting or nervous fidgets. Controlled, deep breathing is also part of Pilates; perhaps children with asthma can benefit from this aspect of the discipline.

By Health Tips

Pilates Equipment 101 - What You Might Need to Exercise at Home

If you are thinking about beginning Pilates, you might prefer to set things up at home rather than enroll in a class. If so, there is some basic equipment you might need to get started. Here are some items to consider.

Stability Ball

A stability ball looks something like those bouncing balls with a handle that kids like to bounce around on - it's about that size. A stability ball is ribbed, and is intended to strengthen core muscles. These muscles are involved in balance, and balancing on the ball in various positions works these muscles. A somewhat cheaper alternative is a foam roller, which has basically the same function but it is firmer and therefore more challenging.


Probably the least expensive of Pilates equipment, a mat is also the most essential. A mat helps provide grip and cushioning for the various exercises and positions, and can be rolled up and stored fairly easily. A mat that is sold under the name "Yoga mat" should work fine, even though Pilates and Yoga are different.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands were not, apparently, part of the original Pilates equipment. But many people like to add them in to their Pilates workouts. These strong, stretchy bands add resistance and make the exercises more challenging.


A reformer looks something like a cross between a traditional gym rowing machine and a low bench. It is made of wood, and there are foldable versions available for homes with limited space. Reformers are intended to work the upper body, especially the abdominals. Legs and buttocks are also exercised on the reformer. Those who have trouble getting up and down from a low position can buy a reformer with attachable legs.


This piece of equipment can look a bit funny if you don't know what it is. It's also called a trapeze table, which tells you something about the look of it. It looks like a leather-cushioned bench with a metal canopy frame over it, from which hang various straps and springs. You can do exercises that require sitting or lying down on the Cadillac. All kinds of Pilates exercises can be done on this classic piece of Pilates equipment.

Wunda Chair

The Wunda chair is supposed to provide resistance to various exercises. The more old-fashioned type of Wunda chair looks like a wooden box with a leather cushion on several sides. You sit on top of the box (it has a cushioned back) and a "shelf" comes out from beneath. This shelf acts like a pedal - you push it down with your legs, and springs provide resistance. More modern versions are sleeker and made of metal.

Getting a DVD or viewing Pilates instructional videos online can be very helpful in learning how to do the exercises in your own home. You can choose to purchase some or all of the equipment, depending on your budget and what you want to achieve.

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The Many Health Benefits of Pilates

Pilates was begun by Joseph Pilates. In 1965, when he was 86 years old, Joseph Pilates claimed he never needed an aspirin and was never injured during his life. Everyone in the world would be happier if they did his exercises, he concluded.

While no exercise can guarantee perfect health for its practitioner, Pilates comes close to delivering the pain-free body that its creator claimed. There are other health benefits associated with Pilates, too. Here are some of them.

Strengthening Your Body

Pilates focuses on strengthening the "core muscles" of the body. These muscles are said to be the basis for body strength; strength of limbs and extremities "stems" from a strong core. Pilates experts say that muscles should be strong, but flexible. Just getting hard muscles is not the point of Pilates, although muscle toning is said to be an effect. Strengthening key muscles and muscle groups is the basic idea.

Body Awareness

As core muscles gain strengthen, Pilates practitioners say you become more aware of your body's posture, movements, stance, and so forth. Pilates instructors teach this "body awareness," providing insight into your physical habits so that you take the concepts with you outside of class. Eventually, Pilates students may get to the point where they are continually aware of what their body is doing.

Pain Reduction

As noted above, Joseph Pilates claimed he never needed an aspirin. Pilates practitioners say there is a significant reduction in neck, shoulder, back and joint pain after doing Pilates exercises. Pilates is said to extend the spine, which may explain the decrease in pain. Many health professionals think that much of the body's pain originates in a misaligned spine.


Joseph Pilates contended that a strong muscle was also a flexible one. Thus, lengthening and stretching the muscles is part of his exercises. Participants usually enjoy enhanced flexibility as a result.

Improved Circulation

Pilates is a total-body workout, involving the whole person and every body system. Thus, circulation is said to increase as the muscles stretch and the body strengthens its core.

Stress Relief

One of the attractive things about Pilates is its reputation as a stress reliever. In order to perform Pilates, you need to be concentrating on what your body is doing, thus redirecting a stressed mind to something orderly and peaceful. The physical stretching and strengthening can help relieve the effects of stress, such as tight muscles and various tension-induced aches and pains. Most health experts agree that stress reduction is an important aspect of good health.

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Pilates for Beginners Checklist

Beginning a new exercise routine such as Pilates can seem daunting. It may look intimidating if you're not prepared. Here is a checklist for Pilates beginners that may help take away some of the uncertainty.

The Pilates Class

Taking a group class is where many people start. If possible, see if you can observe a class before signing up. This gives you a chance to listen to and watch the instructor. He or she should have the following characteristics and qualifications:

* They should give clear, easy-to-understand directions
* They should be enthusiastic (not necessarily hyper - just an obvious love for what he or she does)
* They should be certified to instruct
* They should be doing the exercises along with the students

A good instructor makes you feel like jumping right in and trying. The students should look enthusiastic, too. Not everyone is going to be perfectly toned, of course, but look at the students and see if you can discern the kind of achievements you want to reach.

Also note if the students who are struggling are getting help. Does the instructor ignore them, or does he or she give individual help when needed? Does the instructor get impatient with students who don't quite "get it" right away?

Pilates at Home

If you choose to do Pilates at home, look for a reputable DVD with good reviews. You can also find Pilates tutorials and routines online. Just make sure it fits your level - choose a video that has the instruction you need, not the kind you wish you needed.


The basic floor mat is a good place to start. It's inexpensive, and a whole range of Pilates exercises can be performed on it. Whether you are doing Pilates in a class or at home, having your own mat is a good idea.


Your instructor will need to see your muscles and posture easily so that he or she knows if you're doing the exercises correctly. Thus, really baggy clothing is not a good idea. Tight, binding clothing is not helpful, either; you don't want anything that inhibits movement. Aim for comfortable clothing that is stretchy, like dance apparel. It should cling to your body enough to see what you're doing, but have enough give not to inhibit movements.


There is quite a range of costs involved in starting Pilates. If you begin at home with free online tutorials and a simple floor mat, your cost could be as little as $15 (roughly the cost of a more inexpensive mat). A lot of specialized home equipment can run well into the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

A series of classes varies by studio, of course, but you can expect to pay an average of $15-$30 a session. Many studios offer package rates where you pay for a series of classes for less than paying for each individual class.

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