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The Benefits of Pilates

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Let’s be honest, 2020 has been stressful. Living through a pandemic and navigating all the challenges that have come with it might have taken a toll on your health and fitness.

One weapon against these stresses is exercise; specifically, Pilates. Pilates is a total body workout using spring resistance from a Pilates reformer. The reformer is frame with a flat platform on it. Called the carriage, it rolls back and forth on the frame and is attached to a set of springs, which create resistance. Ochsner Fitness Center recently added several brand-new reformers to its studio at the Harahan location.

The program is rooted in the creator Joseph Pilates’ concept of coordinating mind, body and spirit and the six principles of Pilates: breathing, concentration, centering, control, precision and flow.

Ochsner Fitness Center Pilates instructor Michele Miller said one of the main draws of Pilates is that anyone can do it.

“It’s for everyone and everybody, meaning it’s adaptable to different fitness levels and needs,” she said.

Pilates sessions are individualized to the participant’s strength, flexibility and conditioning level. So, whether you are a senior looking to gain awareness, strength, balance and stability, or whether you are an elite athlete looking to maximize functional training through core strength, stamina and flexibility, Pilates can help.

It’s a great complement to other fitness routines as well. If you are a runner or weight lifter, Pilates enhances areas those exercises don’t. Runners and weight-lifters can struggle with hamstring flexibility, for example. Pilates uses length of the limb and strength to increase flexibility, allowing the participant to utilize more of that muscle as range of motion increases with flexibility.

Some other perks to strengthening muscles with Pilates is uniformly developing muscle growth using the resistance and the assistance of the springs. When someone uses a typical strength machine in a weight room, there is resistance only one way. The reformer offers two-way resistance, so contrasting muscle groups are activated evenly throughout the movement, resulting in even muscle tone distribution.

Pilates “increases the strength of stabilizer muscles, strengths your core like no other exercise, prevents future injuries and helps you become more efficient with your body,” Ochsner Fitness Center Pilates instructor Donna Reuter said.

The lower body stabilizing muscles, small muscles around the hips and ankles, are instrumental in helping the body achieve balance and stability on uneven surfaces or when the body is knocked off balance for some reason. Those muscles activate to help steady the body and prevent falls and injuries. The Pilates movements also strengthen the muscles used to achieve optimal posture, something essential to a healthy body

The Ochsner experts on Pilates emphasize that coordinating all aspects of body, spirit and mind enhance fitness and wellness. Other benefits of Pilates are increased energy and mindfulness, which are big stress relievers.

“As Joseph Pilates said, Pilates is ‘the complete coordination of body, mind, spirit,’” Miller said.


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