For over a decade, Pilates DVDs dominated the infomercial market. But before that—long before—Pilates was being used to improve physical and mental wellbeing worldwide.
Today, we answer the questions everyone is asking:
Is Pilates good for weight loss?
And how good is Pilates for mental health?
We also explore what Pilates is, how it works to benefit weight loss and mental wellbeing,
How Pilates Impacts Weight Loss and Mental Wellbeing
What Is Pilates
Pilates was developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates—a carpenter and gymnast. He originally created his exercise program for injured soldiers and dancers. A man before his time, he understood the link between physical and mental health before it became widely acknowledged.
Pilates And Weight Loss
Thanks to a decade of infomercials, many are left wondering if all those Pilates weight loss results are real. The answer is: yes (if you commit to it).
First up, how good is Pilates for weight loss?
Pilates is mainly a strengthening exercise. It can help you tone and slim down, in a gentle program that builds core strength and flexibility. If you are looking for effective weight loss, Pilates can be combined with a healthy diet and consistent, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.
When you link Pilates and weight loss with a strong fitness routine and healthy diet, you can expect solid results within 12 weeks. As your muscles adjust and you become stronger, your body will be capable of pushing further and achieving more.
Pilates And Mental Wellbeing
Studies have shown that exercises like Pilates can improve mental health in a multitude of ways. Let’s explore some of the key areas we can benefit from exercise therapy in mental health:
1. It improves your memory and cognitive function
A recent study has proven that our brains produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF can rebuild brain cells, and create new ones—and we need to exercise to generate it. There is no magic pill. BDNF has shown the most noticeable activity in our hippocampus—the area of the brain that manages our memories and learning. It has also been linked with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
2. It helps boost concentration and learning
Research at the University of Illinois has shown mindful practices—like Pilates and Yoga—contribute to improved brain function and learning, when compared to aerobic exercise.
3. It improves nervous system functions
Muscle memory needs challenges—not just for the muscles themselves, but for the nervous system that controls them. Voluntarily engaging new muscles, like you do with Pilates, activates a reaction and stimulates the nervous system. This can lead to improved communication between the brain and nervous system.
4. It boosts your feel-good hormones
Consistent exercise increases the levels of mood-boosting endorphins we produce, and reduces the levels of stress hormone in our bodies.
5. It improves focus
In a study on participants who regularly did Pilates, researchers found that they performed better in mental acuity tests and hand-eye coordination exercises, than those who did not regularly practise Pilates.
6. It helps you control your emotions
Breath is one of the six principles of Pilates. You can learn to control your breathing, and be aware of how much you are depriving your body of oxygen without it. These breathing practises can help support you in different situations in the real world, too. In a recent study, researchers showed that different emotional states are linked to different breathing patterns. By managing the breathing pattern, we can help ourselves to manage the emotional state.
7. It can boost your confidence
We’ve all been told to stand up straight countless times, but there is actual science behind it. Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, shared in a TED Talk how certain Pilates postures increase confidence levels.
Why Pilates Has Become a Mindful Practise
Despite the common misconception, mindfulness is not about chanting and sitting cross-legged. It’s about concentration. It’s about quieting your mind, being fully present in your body, mind, and environment, and letting go of distractions.
In order to practise true mindfulness, the key is to focus on what you are doing.
Pilates requires a great deal of mindful practise—if you want to get it right. It requires us to focus on our posture, our breathing, and our positioning. Essentially, it would be impossible to practise Pilates without mindfulness.
Practising mindfulness as a form of meditation benefits your body in so many ways.
- Relieves anxiety
- Oxygenates the body and blood
- Relaxes the mind
- Enables clearer focus
- Boosts creative thinking
- Relieves physical pain
- Relieves stress
- Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
Using Pilates for weight loss is an excellent long-term strategy, and one that has all the added benefits of improving your mental wellbeing.Remember to start small to reduce injury, and to keep your focus on the present. That way, you can enjoy mindful meditation, mood-boosting endorphins, and a stronger core all at the same time—the ultimate multi-tasking