If you suffer from chronic lower back pain or achy joints, Pilates may be for you. Introduced in the U.S. in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, this method of exercise, stretching and relaxation has gained popularity worldwide. While there isn’t extensive research on the effectiveness of Pilates, some studies show that these exercises can decrease pain and improve function in adults who suffer from aches and pains in the back and joints.
There are two ways to do Pilates:
- on the floor with mats or
- with specially designed equipment
Mat-based Pilates uses gravity and your own body weight for resistance. Equipment-based Pilates uses devices you push and pull to strengthen and stretch your muscles. The most popular piece of equipment is the reformer, a carriage-like machine that uses springs to provide resistance. Reformer exercises can be done lying down, sitting, kneeling or standing.
Both types of Pilates strengthen muscles involved in posture, balance and coordination. Proper breathing techniques and control of abdominal muscles during workouts enhance Pilates’ effectiveness. Other benefits from doing Pilates include:
- Stress management and relaxation
- Increased muscle strength, particularly abdominal muscles, lower back and hips
- Increased flexibility
- Prevention of musculoskeletal injuries
If you have severe back pain or a condition that affects participation, you should consult a doctor before starting a Pilates program. Some stretches should be avoided if you have joint issues. For those new to Pilates, having a one-on-one session with a trainer is a good idea.