From Madonna to Reese Witherspoon to Kate Hudson, celebrities consistently credit Pilates as the reason for their toned, lean physiques. It's no wonder why Pilates tops the list as Hollywood's workout-of-choice: This century-old workout boasts a number of enticing health benefits, from tightening the core to elongating the spine to improving posture.
Here, we reveal six compelling reasons to add Pilates to your workout rotation. While we can't guarantee a body like Madonna, you might get pretty darn close!
Move over, crunches. If you covet a tight, toned midsection (and who doesn't?!), it's time to get on board with Pilates. More than any other workout, Pilates deeply targets the core, a.k.a. the "powerhouse" in Pilates speak-the group of muscles including the abdominal muscles, pelvis, buttocks and lower back. A strong, stabilized core is fundamental to everything from flexibility to balance to strength, so most Pilates classes feature plenty of ab-burning exercises to challenge and strengthen those hard-to-reach muscles of the core. Hello, abs of steel!
Can't touch your toes? Might want to add some Pilates to your workout mix. Although we typically think of yoga as the ultimate stretching workout, Pilates is just as effective for enhancing flexibility. According to a 2011 study, four weeks of Pilates training significantly increased flexibility in up to 85 percent of test subjects. You'll notice better flexibility in your back, hip, and hamstrings, especially.
If you're concerned about spinal health, listen up! Practicing Pilates can both alleviate and prevent back pain, research shows. A 2014 study discovered a significant link between Pilates exercises and increased spinal alignment in 24 females. Because of its emphasis on maintaining a "neutral spine" and conditioning the muscles of the core and back, Pilates can promote better spinal health.
Although it helps sculpt super-sexy muscles, Pilates isn't all physical-it also helps to cultivates a greater body-mind connection. In every Pilates class, you'll be encouraged to tune into your breath, to focus on your posture, and to make precise, graceful movements. These teachings can translate from your mat into everyday life, making you more conscious of everything from what you're putting in your body to how to harness the power of the breath.
Pilates has long been touted for its injury-healing properties. Developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, Pilates was originally used to rehabilitate injured soldiers following World War I, and these principles have persisted well into the twenty-first century. Because it's low-impact and gentle on the joints, Pilates is suitable for individuals from a broad range of ages and fitness levels. In studies, Pilates was found to be therapeutic to both injured dancers and elderly individuals, respectively, due to its ability to increase dynamic movement and improve flexibility and balance.
Always slouched over a computer screen? Plagued by chronic neck or back pain? Pilates can help with that. Typically, poor posture is the result of asymmetrical muscle development, meaning some muscles are weaker than others. By strengthening these underdeveloped muscles, Pilates can banish bad posture and even make you appear taller. Another perk? When you sit up straighter, you'll not only look more confident-you'll also ward off chronic pain and have more energy.
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