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healthy bytes: hello, pilates!

Trying to keep active this winter without going outside? Hate wearing runners? Perhaps you should try out pilates.

I’m going to preface this article by admitting that I was a notorious failure at school in aerobic exercise or any kind of ball sport. I was the kid who was always picked last for teams, and the one who blatantly refused to run on cross country days. As a nonathletic person, I’m glad that there are other ways to keep active and tuned-in with your body, without having to run and throw and sweat (and compete with other people). One such activity spreading through fitness centres at the moment is pilates.

What is pilates?

Invented in the 1920s, pilates combines exercises from yoga, ballet and calisthenics. It’s a largely anaerobic form of exercise, more focused on flexibility, balance and body awareness than sweat, speed and calorie counting. Pilates can differ between centres, and there are specific pilates classes designed for pregnant women and other people with special needs.

Why do pilates?

While pilates is often taught in a group environment, it’s very much an individual activity. It’s designed so that you can move at your own pace, push your body only as far as it’s comfortable, and focus on your own breathing and self. While pilates is about flexibility, balance and awareness, there’s no prize for the person who can touch their toes or stand on one leg for the longest. There’s no pressure from the other members of the class – it’s about you and your body.

Health-wise, pilates assists with posture, core strength and physical co-ordination. It provides exercise without strain or discomfort. For me, it’s assisted in improving my circulation, especially during winter – less blue fingers! It also tends to help with period pain.

What is a pilates class like?

I’ve taken various pilates classes and they tend to run for about an hour. Most centres will lend you a pilates mat, and you’ll warm up by deepening your breathing. Classes are generally quiet, with everyone focusing on their own bodies. It’s best to wear comfy clothing and bring a drink bottle, but no runners (yay!) – the idea is to work on your body’s contact with the floor, so bare feet are best. The exercises across the hour will range from standing balances to low-impact sit-ups. You’ll leave the class feeling refreshed and warm rather than breathless and sweaty. If it’s your very first class your tummy muscles might feel a little tight the next day, but nothing too painful!

For more info about pilates, check out Better Health Channel or visit your nearest fitness centre. Or else, post your questions and/or pilates experiences below!

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One thought on “healthy bytes: hello, pilates!

  1. I had awful back pain a year or so ago because I was working in an office and pilates helped heaps! My advice to newbies would be to make sure you find an instructor that knows what they’re doing (!) and where there are small classes, especially if you have back pain. I did some classes at my gym but it was difficult for the instructor to be tuned into what everyone was doing but having done small, specialised classes before, I already knew my limits and some variations I could do when I was in pain.

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