Pilates is growing in popularity for its ability to build core strength and improve posture and balance, which are key to healthy aging. And it’s easy to learn and to adapt to all abilities, making it an excellent fitness activity for all ages.
Pilates workouts come in two forms, mat workouts and reformer workouts, which utilize specialized equipment found in professional Pilates studies. Mat workouts are extremely easy to do at home, requiring no specialized equipment other than a yoga or exercise mat if available.
Here are 4 Pilates mat exercises you can do at home.
1. Pilates Hundred
This classic move, which starts many beginning Pilates classes, is an extremely effective core strengthener. Lying on the floor with your knees up, make sure your belly is in and your back pressed flat to the floor and your arms at your sides. Holding this position, curl your head and shoulders up, and pump your arms up and down in small motions, keeping them parallel with your sides. Pump in counts of five, breathing in for five, and out for five. Work this one gradually until you can do 100 pumps.
2. Letter T
This move starts face down and targets the upper back. With your feet together and your legs and waist flat against the floor, slowly raise your head and chest slightly, enough to extend your arms out to your sides so they’re perpendicular to your body. Keeping your hands palm down, exhale and sweep your arms back as you lift your chin and chest higher. Use your upper back muscles to pull your arms in close to your body, keeping your lower body from the waist down flat on the mat.
3. Lower Back Shoulder Bridge
This move tones the back as well as the abs. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, your arms at your sides, and your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your arms at your sides, raise your hips slowly, tightening the muscles of your buttocks and hamstrings. Try not to arch your back as you do so. Hold for five breaths, then lower yourself back down to the floor, concentrating on going one vertebra at a time.
4. Wall Chair
This classic endurance move is done with your back against the wall for balance. With your feet hip-width apart, walk your feet out from the wall to allow yourself to lower into a sitting position. Think of sitting in a chair without the chair. Try not to use the wall to hold you up, but use your core instead. It’s okay if you can’t get all the way into a sitting position, but slide down a little more each day until your thighs are parallel to the floor over your feet. As balance permits, raise your arms and hold them straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Hold for as long as you can before rising back up the wall.