Is Pilates as good as everyone says?

After Shari Berkowitz was injured during a live dance performance on stage, doctors told the actress that one wrong move could leave her paralyzed for life. He had three herniated discs in his neck, one in his spine. Months of physical therapy got her out of the danger zone, and then she discovered Pilates.

Although the best doctors and physical therapists got her through the early recovery, she said Pilates gave her “strength and confidence in my ability to move — confidence that I could can do Moved again,” she said. The exercise led to her full recovery and inspired her to become a Pilates instructor and studio owner herself. “Pilates was so transformative for me, when I see a The client begins to develop that same physical and emotional strength,” she said. “It’s very satisfying.”

Ms. Berkowitz isn’t the only Pilates devotee talking about the transformative powers of exercise. Many studios cite a quote attributed to its founder, German boxer and powerlifter Joseph Pilates, which declares: “In 10 sessions, you feel better, in 20 sessions you look better, in 30 Your body is brand new in sessions.”

While no exercise can give us a new body, devotees say that light weight resistance training can help our existing bodies in important ways, strengthening the core muscles around the spine. Pilates first gained widespread attention in the late 1990s, as celebrities such as Madonna and Uma Thurman touted its benefits, and aerobics enthusiasts sought a low-impact approach.

But a few years ago, exercise seemed to be on the wane. Doomsday prophesies “The Pilatespocalypse,” as newer and newer fitness trends like spinning and bootcamps exploded.

But thanks in part to the pandemic, many people exercise Priorities have changed From intense, calorie-burning exercise to activities that also promote the mind-body connection, said Cedric Bryant, president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.

Pilates is on the rise again. Most market researchers don’t see it as separate from yoga, but the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association ranks it as the most popular gym activity for women. It now includes a wide array of offerings, from small private studios to one-on-one instruction and national Pilates franchises to app-based virtual classes and expanded “power” Pilates.

So, is it worth trying to add Pilates to your fitness routine? And which flavor is right for you? If you’re interested in exercise, here’s what you need to know.

Pilates exercises are often performed on a mat or in a chair and include many of the strength and flexibility exercises found in other forms of resistance training. “There’s nothing mysterious about Pilates,” said Alicia Ungaro, owner of Real Pilates in New York City and author of several guides to the method.

But there are certain elements that make Pilates unique. First, the method encourages participants to focus on the breath and develop a mind-body connection, paying particular attention to how all movements come from the core. Exercises are repeated in sets that work strategically without tiring the muscles.

Many Pilates exercises also involve specialized equipment, including spring-based resistance machines designed to support the spine and target specific muscle groups. The most popular machine, called the “corrector,” looks like a small bed frame with a sliding platform connected by a system of springs, ropes, and pulleys.

Scientific research supports an array of impressive health benefits for Pilates. Studies show that it can help improve mood. Muscular endurance and flexibilityless Chronic pain And less Anxiety and depression.

The short answer is: all. Really

Pilates can be tailored to suit fitness goals, ages and abilities – professional dancers, athletes, pregnant women, seniors looking to improve their balance.

“Any body can do it,” said Carrie Semper, director of Pilates education for Equinox. “You don’t have to be 25 and a Cirque du Soleil dancer. You can be 85 and start doing Pilates.

While doing Pilates will have its own rewards, some people approach it as a supplement to other physical activities. “It really taught me how to move my body,” said Chris Robinson, a martial artist and owner of San Diego-based studio Pilates & Sports. “And I realized I could apply that learning to anything.”

Physicians and physical therapists often recommend Pilates as a way to rehabilitate people recovering from injury. “It can act as a bridge to more normal activities,” Dr. Bryant said. It can also help reduce one’s chances of injury, he said, due to its ability to improve core stability. The restflexibility and condition. “We know that when they’re inadequate, you increase the risk of a variety of musculoskeletal and joint injuries.”

You can also do Pilates Benefit to women Those who are pregnant or postpartum by safely strengthening the core and conditioning the pelvis. “It’s a great way to strengthen your pelvic floor without doing hundreds of Kegels,” said Sarah Clampett, a physical therapist and head of clinical operations for Origin, a Los Angeles-based health company. “Anyone with pelvic floor problems or dysfunction will benefit from Pilates.”

Traditional Pilates is not a cardiovascular exercise. “The more advanced a person is, the more cardio-like,” said Ms. Berkowitz, who now trains instructors through her online studio, The Vertical Workshop. “But you’ll never get to the point where you’re really challenging your cardiovascular system.”

It’s not even the same as lifting heavy weights. “There are limits to how much strength it can have,” Ms. Semper said. “It’s not the same thing as doing a trap bar deadlift or a bench press. You’re not going to build the same muscles, because you never do a Pilates move to exhaustion.

It’s also not the best exercise for catching up with friends or watching TV. “You have to really be present and pay attention to where your body is in space and what it’s doing, and not everyone wants to do that,” Ms. Semper said. Without this level of concentration, you likely won’t get the maximum benefits – and risk injury.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults devote 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two days of strength training per week. Pilates will fall later.

But while you’ll see the benefits of doing Pilates once or twice a week, exercise experts agree that three times a week is ideal. Ms Semper said it was a “beautiful place”.

Is there such a thing as too much Pilates? Not really, if you mix up the way you practice. “If you find that’s what floats your boat, there’s nothing wrong with doing it five times a week or more,” Dr. Bryant said.

Not all workouts that call themselves “Pilates” are created equal.

Experienced Pilates instructors usually recommend starting with one-on-one or small group training sessions, so you can learn the basics. “The ideal situation is to be in the studio,” Mr. Robinson said. “You have all the equipment to help you and an instructor to guide you.”

But for many, he said, that’s not possible. Individual training sessions often start at $75 or more per session, while virtual classes can be a fraction of that. “There’s still a lot to be achieved in practice, if that’s all you can do,” Mr Robinson said. “You know, some Pilates is better than no Pilates.”

The way you connect may depend on your specific goals and needs. “If you’re a healthy person and you don’t have any muscle problems — you just want a good workout — absolutely, join a gym Pilates class,” said Carrie Lamb, master instructor for the national Pilates company Balanced Body. and physical therapists in Golden, Colo. But if you’re recovering from an injury or dealing with chronic pain, you may benefit from a more intimate environment.

For people looking for a workout that helps them achieve both cardio and muscle-building goals, consider checking out the new, hybrid Pilates offerings that intensify classic movements and get your heart pumping. We promise to pump.

To get the most out of Pilates, Dr. Bryant said, look for “a well-trained and qualified instructor” who puts clients’ safety first.

As Pilates has become more popular, more and more people with very little training are marketing themselves as Pilates instructors. “There are some people who will tell you that they teach Pilates, and they’ve gone to a weekend class,” Dr. Lamb said, while others “have gone through extensive training and learning. Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars have been spent on it.”

Before signing up for any form of Pilates, check the instructor’s credentials, Dr. Bryant said, and look for someone who has completed a certification program with at least 400 hours of training. Along with the need for continuous education.

Ask potential instructors how they can help you meet your specific goals. Find someone who listens carefully and understands you as an individual, says Dr. Bryant.As opposed to being an expert who will tell you what you need.”

Danielle Friedman is a journalist in New York City and author of “Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World.”