TONE UP Dr Fiza Taj Samadh explains how Pilates can improve body balance and strengthen muscles
How about getting fit and strong this year, and giving yourself a real nice gift of good health? For those who already have a plan of action to do just that, I would recommend Pilates. This is an age-old fitness regimen that is not far from becoming the next big thing in India.
Named after Joseph Pilates, the founder of the exercise form in the early 1900s, the exercise was earlier called ‘Body Contrology’. It draws its influences from exercises in the East and the West — yoga and gymnastics. It involves mental and physical exercises, with a purpose to strengthen the body and free the mind.
It works on the core muscles of the body — from the deepest to the most superficial muscles of the back, abdominal and pelvic floor. It strengthens the entire body. The body experiences a sense of rejuvenation and relief from pain. As Joseph Pilates famously said: “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions you will see the difference, and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body.”
The immediate benefits of Pilates include:
- Tightening and flattening of the stomach, increasing the strength from inside out.
- Increasing flexibility and muscle tone.
- Helping treat and prevent pelvic floor weakness (urinary incontinence, piles, uterine or rectum prolapse etc).
- Improving strength and bone mineral density.
- Improving balance, co-ordination, focus and concentration.
- Improving posture, BP and cholesterol reading.
- Tightening every muscle in the body, from inside out.
Another reason that Pilates is so popular is that the exercise form is very safe. Even though it may cause some pain initially, experts say that benefits outweigh the mild discomfort. For those suffering from intense back pain, Pilates, done under expert guidance, can increase stamina and endurance, improve mood swings, and offer better muscle strength and body balance. Some of the most important exercises that augment strength in Pilates include:
- ‘Hundred’ (great for building stamina and endurance).
- ‘Swan Dive’ (strengthens the spine).
- ‘Side Bend’ (tones the sides of the body).
- ‘Criss Cross’ (for obliques).
- ‘Teasers’ (strengthens all the abdominal muscles – transversus, external and internal obliques and rectus abdominus).
- ‘Jack Knife’ (strengthens legs and readies one for any sporty activity).
Pilates can be applied not only in prevention but also in the rehabilitation of many musculo-skeletal ailments.
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