Since its creation in the 1920s, Pilates classes have been used around the world to increase muscle strength and tone, improve flexibility, balance, and posture, and even to lose weight. However, research is suggesting that Pilates also has a wide range of mental health benefits.
Joseph Pilates believed that physical and mental health went hand-in-hand, which is why the Pilates method is both a physical and mental workout. His method focuses on correct alignment, control, breathing, flowing movement, and concentration. His precise movements focus on technique and control over repetition.
Let’s look at some of the ways that Pilates reformer classes have the potential to help improve physical and mental health:
Stress Management and Relaxation
Pilates reformer classes are used widely as a way to reduce and cope with stress. Exercise can decrease stress hormones like cortisol, and increase endorphins, your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals, giving your mood a natural boost. As a form of exercise, Pilates classes may also improve your ability to respond to and cope with stress, enhancing your stress resilience.
Improving Memory and Brain Training
When performing automated forms of exercise such as running on a treadmill, the body may be working but the brain is not actively engaged. This may lead to an increased risk of injury and reduced exercise benefits. Pilates reformer classes require you to recruit both your body and mind simultaneously.
When we learn a new exercise or modification, it challenges the brain to learn a new skill, keeping the mind engaged at all times. Considering that no two pilates reformer classes are alike, this keeps us on our toes and always attentive to our minds and bodies while taking a Pilates class.
In addition to this, exercise pumps blood to the brain, which should make you think more clearly. It increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory. It also increases the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This improves your memory and helps protect your brain against injury and disease when you take a Pilates class.
A Tool for Treating Depression or Anxiety
Most research on exercise and mental health focuses on the possible benefits for sufferers of depression. Pilates classes may assist in the treatment of depression and anxiety by offering an opportunity to socialize, changing the levels of chemicals in the brain (serotonin, cortisol and endorphins), providing a distraction from negative thoughts, releasing stress, enhancing mindfulness, and helping to create a self-care routine.
Better Sleep Habits
One of the quickest ways to wear down a mind is through sleep deprivation. Adults who don’t wake up feeling refreshed each morning can suffer from a myriad of health complications, including a loss of critical thinking skills and memory. A lack of sleep also raises the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream, which can impact not only your mental well-being but also your physical health.
Taking a Pilates reformer class each day can help to relax both the mind and the body, making it easier to fall asleep at night. Staying active also improves the quality of sleep and REM cycles. With a longer night and a deeper sleep, you can focus better during the daytime and won’t have to worry about mental fatigue.
The best Pilates classes are not just designed to strengthen the muscles and improve balance. It also sharpens our mental faculties, improving our performance both at work and at home. Emphasis on breathing techniques and mindful thinking can help to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance concentration, and even improve sleeping habits.
Five Starr Pilates Classes
Now that you have a better understanding of the many ways Pilates can help boost both your physical and mental health, it’s time to try out your first class!