There is more to Pilates than just packing the perfect abs, a flat tummy, and building core strength. Those who’ve practiced Pilates over the years swear on some of the amazing transformations they’ve experienced in body, mind, and spirit. But if you don’t want to take their word on it, maybe you can listen to science.
Many of us seek out an exercise program for physical fitness and physical transformation. Yet, at a time when stress and health issues are affecting more and more people, programs like Pilates have become a popular go-to wellness strategy.
If you’re striving to achieve more than just physical fitness, the scientific evidence finds for Pilates at least 5 astonishing benefits. Read on.
Did you know that as early as our late 20s, our brain cells begin to deteriorate, leading to reduced cognitive function? Well, scientists have discovered that the brain’s hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning, shrinks in 1% increments over time. This explains why each of us is bound to have a “senior moment” sooner or later. However, this degeneration isn’t rapid for everyone. A process called neurogenesis actually involves the brain creating new cells, particularly in the hippocampus.
This is where Pilates comes in. Scientists note that exercise is correlated to an improvement in neurogenesis, meaning people who exercise stand to preserve most of their memory ability than those who don’t. Simply put, Pilates can enhance your memory, reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and make you learn better. Interestingly, a research study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health concluded that people who practice Pilates or Yoga have better brain function than those who do just aerobic exercise.
One way to ensure your brain is fit is to learn something new. Scientists from the University of Oxford tell us that learning something new makes the density of white matter in our brain spike. White matter allows the neurons in the brain to talk to one another and connect. Yet learning a new activity is something we usually take a rain check on. The science suggests that the fitter the brain, the better.
And what learning activity can be more fun than an exercise program like Pilates? Through an exercise program, the brain gets trained to process multiple tasks and learn new modifications or movements every time.
The nervous system’s special role is that it delivers messages from the brain to the entire body and vice versa. It’s sort of like the body’s electrical wiring system. If it’s broken, it will have an impact on learning, thought, and other mental activity.
Here’s how Pilates can rev up or repair that electrical wiring system. Once you activate muscles you’ve never used before voluntarily through exercise, you set off a movement chain that fires up your entire nervous system. The more active the nervous system, the better the brain communicates with your whole body.
You might have heard a thing or two about how mindful movement can do you good – namely, that it’s effective in relieving stress and anxiety, treating insomnia, manage chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, unleash creativity, and decrease negativity. Science can vouch for the benefits of mindful exercise.
Mindfulness is a state of being in the present and of being aware of one’s movement as it happens. Studies have supported mindfulness exercises as a way of treating many mood and behavioral disorders in people. A study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that one 60-minute Pilates exercise was enough to enhance the mood in women who led sedentary lives. Think of the impact that doing regular Pilates exercises can have on your mood!
So many elements about our work and the environment deplete our energy reserves. The stresses of life contribute to many people feeling “burned out” or fatigued. In contrast to the popular notion that exercise is tiring and leaves you breathless, doing it actually increases your energy levels. The more energy you have, the more you can make out of a 24-hour day.
Researchers Karl Fleming and Matthew Herring, in their study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, concluded that doing Pilates led to a significantly large decrease in depressive symptoms, anxiety, and fatigue. More importantly, doing Pilates led to higher feelings of energy.
Life shouldn’t just be about the daily grind. It should be focused on balancing the trinity of the mind, body, and spirit. While Pilates is generally known to benefit posture and body alignment, its essence is really improving the mind and body connection. If you haven’t already, you should consider Pilates as a regular fixture in your daily schedule. The science is strong on this one.