In the United States, in 1923, Joseph Pilates created the Pilates method, a type of gymnastics that has since been practiced by many people, with the aim of general physical improvement. Pilates gymnastics are in fact suitable for everyone, from sportsmen to those who are facing rehabilitation after an accident, but also for pregnant women or those who follow a slimming workout.
It is a practice consisting of many exercises, which have the main effect of stretching muscles, increasing flexibility, the acquisition of strength and balance and proper posture. Let’s find out together how Pilates gymnastics works and who can benefit most from it for their health.
PILATES GYMNASTICS: WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT WORKS
Pilates is a type of anaerobic physical exercise that requires concentration just like yoga, because in this gymnastics you need to find your own center of gravity, useful for controlling movements. During the execution of each position, the body stretches, stretches and moves in sync with the breathing, follows precise planes on a regular basis, using the body’s own weight as the main resistance.
Joseph Pilates created his method based on exercises that had, as their ultimate goal, to strengthen his own body, fragile because of precarious health conditions. Fragile because he was poorly constituted and had many postural problems and related to movement: for this very reason, it is a gymnastics that affects both the body and the mind, and also supports well rehabilitation.
A Pilates gymnastics session lasts on average 60 minutes, and consists of sequential exercises, carried out at low repetitions, which sometimes require the use of specific machines.
Unlike yoga, Pilates gymnastics not only works with a free body, but is also assisted by specifically constructed machines, called Reformer, horizontal sliding platforms placed in a structure on which the person sits, stands up, kneels or lies down, and which allow the exercise to be guided in every phase of its execution.
In order to benefit from this practice, Pilates is generally performed two to three times a week. During the exercises on the mat, it is the gravity and the weight of the body that stabilize the core; on the Reformer, on the other hand, the resistance during the movement is given by light springs, connected to the mobile platform, and by simple pulleys.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE EXERCISES IN PILATES GYMNASTICS
A typical Pilates workout includes a series of exercises, performed by paying attention to breathing and muscle controls, and maintaining concentration during movement.
During the practice, the body is constantly subjected to unstable postures, with the aim of acting to find the correct balance.
Pilates gymnastics uses a combination of about 50 simple and repetitive exercises to create a muscle effort. As we read in a June Kloubec study by Bastyr University of the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science, published in 2011 in Muscles Ligaments Tendons J., Pilates gymnastics originates from five essential elements:
- Cervical alignment
- Scapular stabilization
- Pelvic mobility
- Use of abdominal traverse
Each exercise starts by stabilizing the core muscles (abdominal, gluteal and paraspinal muscle regions) and proceeds through controlled movements.
In Pilates gymnastics training, the focus is on different motor units, and each exercise is repeated twice to five times.
WHAT ARE THE POSITIVE EFFECTS OF PILATES ON HEALTH?
The greatest benefits for the body following training through Pilates gymnastics are:
- Increased flexibility
- strength gain
- strengthening of the core
- improving posture and centre of gravity trim
- improved breathing
- improvement of concentration and relaxation capacity
- improvement of muscle tone
- strengthening of the muscular region linked to the spinal column
- improvement of abdominal and lumbopelvic stability
Relaxation of the muscles subjected to the most postural stress (shoulders, neck and upper back).
Although this discipline is not very recent, there are still few studies on it, which have in any case confirmed the usefulness of this gymnastics. Pilates in fact accentuates the slight forward flexion of the cervical vertebrae, facilitates stabilisation of the scapula and the thoracic cage linked to the hips and the posterior pelvic inclination, thus leading to postural improvement and a decrease in lumbar lordosis.
TRANSVERSUS ABDOMINIS: THE MAIN MUSCLE IN GYMNASTICS PILATES
The transverse abdominal muscle, positioned under the navel, is specifically affected by every movement in the Pilates. This muscle is responsible for controlling posture and gives stiffness to the trunk during movement. It is activated during breathing, allowing forced exhalation and controlled inhalation. The pelvic floor muscles and diaphragm, together with the transverse abdomen, contract, contributing to the support of the spine while the abdominal muscles and breathing techniques give stability to the trunk and back.
IS PILATES A POSTURAL GYMNASTICS?
As reported in Sports Health, a 2011 study by Christine E. Di Lorenzo of West Side Physical Therapy in New York, tried to determine the effect of a Pilates training program on posture, strength, flexibility.
Nineteen subjects, 9 controls and 10 experimental ones, were evaluated twice, 12 weeks later, during which the experimental group carried out a Pilates training for two sessions of 1 hour a week.
The Pilates training program was effective in improving abdominal strength and posture of the upper spine, as well as stabilizing the core posture when shoulder flexion movements were performed. These results support the use of Pilates in the prevention of neck and shoulder disorders.
Another research, focused instead on Pilates in the treatment of low back pain (source: Sports Health), confirmed that Pilates could be used as an alternative approach to treatment for those suffering from chronic low back pain. The Pilates method uses various rehabilitation methods, including strengthening the core, which is important because deficits in the core are often related to this disorder. In the study cited, 43 patients who had suffered from low back pain for more than three months, divided into two groups, performed the usual treatments or Pilates exercises. The Pilates group showed similar results to the usual treatment.
Of course, scholars suggest further research to determine which specific parameters should be applied when prescribing Pilates-based exercises, although existing studies to date, albeit in limited numbers, suggest that Pilates has beneficial effects in terms of reducing pain and disability in patients with low back pain.
PILATES IN POST-OPERATIVE REHABILITATION AND FOR THE ELDERLY
There is also a strong interest in the use of Pilates for post-operative rehabilitation. This has led to the development of exercises for patients undergoing orthopaedic interventions, such as hip or knee arthroplasty.
Following surgical operations such as those mentioned above, it is essential to agree on a rehabilitation plan with specialists; in this regard, it is useful to know that the UniSalute Physiotherapy policy covers numerous physiotherapy treatments for rehabilitation purposes in the event of an accident, with the possibility of choosing the center and a saving on normal rates. Did you know about this opportunity?