Summertime is a great time for outdoor activities, like cycling, swimming, tennis, and the like. Sometimes, though, the heat can be prohibitive and force people inside. On those days, a great option for a fantastic low-impact workout is Pilates. The Dayton YMCAs offer a wide variety of Pilates classes designed to help you build your core (abdominal) strength, which can translate to overall improved endurance, injury prevention, and decreased pain.
For those not familiar with Pilates, it is a style of exercise that focuses on the mind-body connection to reinforce proper movement patterns. Emphasis is placed on proper breathing techniques and the quality of movement, not the number of repetitions or speed. It is very gentle and low-impact, but still very challenging. Various equipment can be used with Pilates movements, including exercise balls, body bars and resistance bands. As with other styles of exercise, modifications are readily available for those who need them.
You might be thinking, “How can this low impact workout without barbells or other heavy weights be effective?” The key to Pilates seems to be the endurance aspect and the core focus. Most of us do a fairly poor job of maintaining our abdominal muscle tone during our daily lives. Many of us sit at a desk or stand in one position much of the day. Neither of those positions really force us to activate our abdominals effectively for extended periods of time. It’s much easier to slouch at a desk or overextend our spines when standing for long periods. Pilates forces you not only to consciously activate your abdominals, but to maintain that gentle activation while using your arms and legs to perform other movements. The small core abdominal muscles that are being targeted are easily fatigued, because we don’t use them regularly. Thus, the challenge comes in properly maintaining that muscle contraction while performing functional movements, using your conscious breathing techniques to make the connection. Properly performing the movements can lead to improved muscle elongation and flexibility, as well as increased balance due to the focus on abdominal strength.
Pilates is truly a unique theory of exercise that is complimentary to many other activities. Learning to better engage the core through proper breathing techniques and abdominal activation can lead to improved overall fitness and functional strength. Consider trying one of the many Pilates offerings here at your local YMCA this summer.