The Benefits of Pilates
Just what can Pilates exercises do for you?
"I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The
whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be
happier." -- Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 86.
Runner or golfer, tennis player or new mom, chances are you've heard someone
talking about the benefits of Pilates. Many types of people, at many levels of
who have begun doing Pilates exercises say they've seen improvements in range
of motion, flexibility, circulation, posture, and abdominal strength -- and
decreases in back, neck and joint pain.
Forty years after his death, the system of exercises developed by Joseph
Pilates has never been in such demand. But can the benefits of Pilates
(puh-LAH-teez), the system of strengthening and stretching exercises designed to develop the body's
core, mobilize the spine and build flexibility, really be that
Pilates Benefit No. 1: Body Awareness
Celebrity Pilates teacher Siri Dharma Galliano says Pilates -- when
performed correctly and with the proper supervision -- can do all that and
"It is an education in body awareness," says Galliano, who owns Live Art
Pilates studio in Los Angeles. "It changes your shape by educating you in daily
life. When you're cooking, brushing your teeth -- the lessons are coming home
to pull your stomach in and pull your shoulders down. There is an attention
required (in doing the exercises) that changes your awareness" even after
"It teaches you how to train your mind and build symmetry and coordination
in the body," adds Galliano. "And when you can get control of the little
things, that's practicing willpower."
Aliesa George, a Pilates teacher in Wichita, Kan., agrees.
"The biggest benefit in my eyes would be personal awareness -- awareness of
how you sit or how you stand or how you move and being able to relate those
habits to the aches and pains and injuries you have or have had in the past,"
For example, she says, it can help make you aware of that chronic tweak in
the neck you get from sitting at the computer all day with rounded shoulders
and a phone cradled between ear and shoulder.
As a Pilates-trained physical therapist, Dan Westerhold says he sees a lot
of clients with injuries or weakness of the postural muscles, as a result of
work, lifestyle, or not exercising the right way.
"People sit slouched at computers all day, then go to the gym and work their
extremities," says Westerhold, of Pilates Seattle. "They don't use their
Think of a tree, Pilates experts say. Does it have all its strength in its
limbs? No. The tree is only as strong as its trunk and roots. Without a strong
trunk, the tree would topple over.
It's the same for human bodies, say Pilates experts. If we don't concentrate
on building a good foundation and a strong trunk or core, we'll end up tight in
some places and weak in others, injury-prone and susceptible to the pitfalls of
our occupation or chosen form of exercise.