I’ve heard that Pilates can cause injury. How can I begin to fit Pilates into my workout routines safely?
Pilates was founded by Joseph Pilates as a method for strengthening muscles using the mind, body and spirit. He combined elements of yoga, dance, gymnastics and martial arts into a routine that would help one lead a healthy life and improve ability for activities of daily living.
Incorporating Pilates into your physical activity routine is important because it brings a variation of working different muscle groups in a different way than you can through dancing, running, swimming, biking or even yoga. Pilates builds strength and helps with muscle function.
The Pilates method of exercise was shown to produce significant results by Cruz-Ferreira. Review of studies provided evidence that established improved flexibility and endurance from training. It has been linked to improving reaction time, life satisfaction, and perception of health status. Cakmakci showed that an 8 week Pilates program is effective in helping body “weight, body mass index (BMI), lean body mass, waist-hip ratio, biceps, triceps, fat percentage, basal metabolic rate, and flexibility.”
Pilates is a powerful workout that will help you lengthen and tone. While there are plenty of DVDs and books available on Pilates, I would strongly encourage you to attend a Pilates class in person for your first attempt. This class should be taught by a certified instructor who has, at a minimum, been trained and tested through a written and practical exam on at least basic knowledge of anatomy and modifications.
To begin, be aware that Pilates can be modified so the movements are suited to your particular body capabilities – so if you go into a class and they go into a full teaser (start laying down and raise up into a ‘V’ shape with your arms and legs forming the arches) and you are just beginning and have no abdominal strength you can have the pose modified so that you will begin strengthening your core. Pilates could be done every day as long as you worked different muscle groups on consecutive days. As a beginner, I would recommend starting with just 1 class a week to ease into it. Doing pilates 2-3 days a week is what you can work towards as your goal. You can even fit some pilates moves into your other exercises like stretching. To avoid injury make sure that you are properly warmed up and not attempting to do movements until you are literally warm. For example, perhaps do some jumping jacks and stretches before getting onto the mat.
I really enjoy the progression that is possible with Pilates. I began with modified movements and have worked up to even adding some weights and accessories to my routine. I think the flexibility of Pilates as a form of exercise is fresh because there can be so much variety of what moves you can do to work the same muscle groups. Go grab a mat, take a class and begin quivering as you try to hold your pose!
Cakmakci, O. (2011). The Effect of 8 Week Plates Exercise on Body Composition in Obese Women. [Article]. Collegium Antropologicum, 35(4), 1045-1050.
Cruz-Ferreira, A., Fernandes, J., Laranjo, L., Bernardo, L. M., & Silva, A. (2011). A Systematic Review of the Effects of Pilates Method of Exercise in Healthy People. [Review]. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 92(12), 2071-2081. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.06.018