Pilates Can Improve Your Posture, Flexibility, And Strength

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Pilates is all about slow, controlled movements—but its fitness and health rewards are supercharged. Whether you go for a class on a mat, using gravity for resistance, one on a reformer (a flat, bed-like machine with muscle-strengthening springs), or a more contemporary variation with equipment like spring-loaded chairs and larger Megaformers, you’ll walk away with feel-better benefits on day one.

Whatever way you get your Pilates fix, read on for seven great results you’ll take away. Then go hit the studio ASAP.

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1 It tones your muscles

While people often say Pilates leaves you with “long, lean muscles,” technically all muscle is lean mass. But the workout does strengthen and stretch your limbs in one go. “Oftentimes, people feel that their body has been compressed, tense, and tight beforehand but leave the studio feeling more loose and more aware of their body,” says Marina Kaydanova, founder of BK Pilates in New York City.

2 It gives you a rock-solid core

Probably the most well-known Pilates move—the Hundred—is all about abs. But exercises that target your tummy are hardly the only reason it’s a dynamo core workout. Most Pilates moves require you to keep proper alignment and challenge your stability to stay balanced, which helps fire up your midsection. In fact, after just 12 weeks of a Pilates routine, a majority of people showed improved the core strength in a new British study.

3 It makes you more flexible

No wonder Pilates has been a favorite of dancers for decades. The workout is about strengthening and stretching—and research has shown it comes with a major muscle-loosening payoff. After only eight weeks of a Pilates routine, people showed improved the flexibility in a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

4 It improves your posture

A big focus of the workout is maintaining good alignment and balance as you slowly move through all the exercises. So it makes sense that doing a mat or reformer routine on the reg will help you sit and stand tall the rest of the time too. A strong back, glutes, and abs won’t just look good but are key for nailing perfect posture.

5 It might ease your aches

Pilates helped relieve chronic back pain for participants in that same British study. “It can help relieve lower-back pain, partially because it adds support to your core,” says Kaydanova. A regular routine can also help prevent future injuries by improving your flexibility and mobility.

6 It counts as cardio

Cardio while lying on your back? Sign. Me. Up. All right, it might not pack the same punch as running intervals, but Pilates does include a dose of cardiovascular exercise. Classes on a reformer are better for this than those on a mat, since the reformer’s springs and jump board allow for more energetic moves; the only element of cardio in a mat routine is marching, says Kaydanova. But both versions will be sure to rev up your heart rate.

7 It might help you lose weight

Women who did Pilates three times a week for eight weeks lost weight and inches in their waist and improved their BMI, in one small study from Pamukkale University in Turkey. Keep in mind, though, that study participants were overweight and sedentary to begin with—so if you’re already active, you might not notice a dip on the scale.

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