Many people hear about Pilates as a good way to flatten your stomach and get stronger abdominal muscles. But did you also know that by strengthening your core muscles, Pilates may actually prevent back pain and other injuries? This is because you need strong core abdominal muscles for correct alignment of the spine.
Your abdominal muscles anchor your spine from the front, so if they’re weak, the opposing muscles in your back have to work harder to hold your spine straight. For this reason, many doctors recommend Pilates to prevent or ease back and neck pain.
Pilates can also improve balance and stability, which is important if you’re a runner, a cyclist, or training for a fitness event such as the Fight for Air Climb.
How Do I Get Started with Pilates?
If you’re new to Pilates, the best way to learn to do these exercises right is by taking a class. Your local community center, gym, or fitness center probably offers a basic Pilates class. Many community adult education programs offer Pilates classes, and they’re often taught at Senior Centers too. Kaiser Permanente offers Health Education classes featuring Pilates in many locations Check with your local Kaiser Permanente medical center to see if there is a class near you.
There are also independent Pilates studios, which are set up with specialized Reformer equipment that allows you to do the full range of Pilates exercises. Some gyms have Pilates studios as well. When you get more advanced, you may want to explore this option.
Can I Do Pilates at Home?
It is possible to learn the basics of Pilates using videos or books. But proceed slowly and carefully and get a doctor’s okay first. A good book to start with is the classic The Pilates Body by certified teacher Brooke Siler, who trained with Joseph Pilates himself. If you’re interested in Pilates because you want to lose weight, Siler’s book on Pilates for Weight Loss is a useful tool.
Videos are another helpful tool. But you want to be careful – Google “Beginning Pilates” and you’ll see hundreds of videos, many of which are not teaching Pilates correctly and safely for beginners. Look for a teacher certified by the United States Pilates Association. A good introduction to Pilates techniques is offered in this Beginner Mat Class from Pilatesology.