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“It is a core and trunk muscle strengthening regimen,” Lauerman says. “You basically build up all of those muscles in the core of your trunk, and it unloads the strain on the disc in the spine.”

And for Garcia, Pilates also has the benefit of keeping his back in prime shape for hitting the fairway, an activity more obviously in keeping with his “Terry Benedict” Las Vegas casino boss image (the role he is reprising for the third time this summer, alongside fellow Ocean’s 13 stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon). “Pilates seems to be essential to keeping a healthy back,” he says, “especially if you want to play golf once a week.”

Lauerman couldn’t agree more with Garcia’s assessment. Over the past five or six years, he says, “I’ve become increasingly impressed by the benefit of a good Pilates regimen.”

According to The Pilates Method Alliance, which establishes certification standards for Pilates instructors, people who practice Pilates faithfully (the Alliance recommends two to three times a week) will benefit in the following ways:

• Increased lung capacity and circulation

• Strength and flexibility, particularly of the abdomen and back muscles

• Muscular and mental coordination

• Improved posture balance and core strength

• Improved bone density and joint health

• Positive body awareness

Lauerman advises his patients to take a class, rather than buy a videotape, and to start off with mat work (floor exercises) rather than the reformer (equipment that uses spring tension, straps, and supports). “Make sure you talk to the instructor and explain that you have a back condition or you’ve had surgery,” he says.

But listen to your body --or rather, your back. Lauerman warns his back patients away from “No pain, no gain.” If your back hurts when you do Pilates (sharp or shooting pain, different than just having sore muscles), or if you can’t sleep at night because of the pain,” he says, then either your technique is off or “it’s just not right for your back.”

Catch Andy Garcia in Ocean's 13, opening nationwide June 8, and on the cover of the July/August issue of WebMD the Magazine on July 1. Garcia talks to us more about his dedication to his family; how he strikes a balance in Hollywood; and his award-winning acting, directing, and music careers.

Published June 7, 2007.

WebMD the Magazine - Feature

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