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Try Pilates for Core Strength

Pilates (pronounced: puh- lah -teez) is said to improve your mental and physical well-being, increase flexibility, and strengthen muscles. Pilates uses controlled movements in the form of mat exercises or equipment to tone and strengthen the body. For decades, it's been the exercise of choice for dancers and gymnasts (and now Hollywood actors), but it was originally used to rehabilitate bedridden or immobile patients during World War I.

What Is Pilates?

Pilates is a body conditioning routine that seeks to build flexibility, strength, endurance, and coordination without adding muscle bulk. In addition, pilates increases circulation and helps to sculpt the body and strengthen the body's "core" or "powerhouse" (torso). People who do pilates regularly feel they have better posture, are less prone to injury, and experience better overall health.
There are two ways to exercise in pilates. Today, most people focus on the mat exercises, which require only a floor mat and training. These exercises are designed so that your body uses its own weight as resistance. The other method of pilates uses a variety of machines to tone and strengthen the body, again using the principle of resistance.

Getting Started

The great thing about pilates is that just about everyone - from couch potatoes to fitness buffs - can do it. Because pilates has gained lots of attention recently, there are lots of classes available. You'll probably find that many fitness centers and YMCAs offer pilates classes, mostly in mat work. Some pilates instructors also offer private classes that can be purchased class by class or in blocks of classes; these may combine mat work with machine work. If your health club makes pilates machines available to members, make sure there's a qualified pilates instructor on duty to teach and supervise you during the exercises. Look for an instructor who is certified by a group that has a rigorous training program. These instructors have completed several hundred hours of training just in pilates and know the different ways to modify the exercises so new students don't get hurt.

The pilates mat program follows a set sequence, with exercises following on from one another in a natural progression, just as Joseph Pilates designed them. Beginners start with basic exercises and build up to include additional exercises and more advanced positioning.

Keep these tips in mind so that you can get the most out of your pilates workout.

  • Stay focused. Pilates is designed to combine your breathing rhythm with your body movements. Qualified instructors teach ways to keep your breathing working in conjunction with the exercises. You will also be taught to concentrate on your muscles and what you are doing. The goal of pilates is to unite your mind and body, which relieves stress and anxiety .
  • Be comfortable. Wear comfortable clothes (as you would for yoga - shorts or tights and a T-shirt or tank top are good choices), and keep in mind that pilates is usually done without shoes. If you start feeling uncomfortable, strained, or experience pain, you should stop.
  • Let it flow. When you perform your exercises, avoid quick, jerky movements. Every movement should be slow, but still strong and flexible. Joseph Pilates worked with dancers and designed his movements to flow like a dance.
  • Don't leave out the heart. The nice thing about pilates is you don't have to break a sweat if you don't want to - but you can also work the exercises quickly (bearing in mind fluidity, of course!) to get your heart rate going. Or, because pilates is primarily about strength and flexibility, pair your pilates workout with a form of aerobic exercise like swimming or brisk walking.

Before you begin any type of exercise program, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor, especially if you have a health problem.

Source: kidshealth.org

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