"In 10 sessions, you’ll feel the difference; in 20, you’ll see the difference, and in 30, you’ll have a whole new body!" So says Joseph Pilates of the exercise system he developed in 1925. Impressive, eh? And Pilates can be tailored to suit anyone – even beginners. Here’s why a good stretch sesh could work for you.
- You can do it
Pilates is an all-round workout that benefits mind and body – just about every body. The exercises aren’t hard; the classes can be very gentle. The combination of stretching, strength training and relaxation makes Pilates work for all fitness levels – even if you have back problems (check with your GP first if you’re unsure).
- It’s ab fab
Pilates targets the core-stability muscles around your middle and it will improve the tone of your abs. This, in combination with an eating plan designed for weight loss, will help you achieve a flatter stomach. "The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn, even when you’re at rest," says Lynne Robinson, founder of Body Control Pilates.
- It’s joint-friendly
Those stability muscles also support your back, hips and pelvis, so strengthening them can help alleviate back problems, knee problems and even poor posture.
Try a simple exercise at home: the relaxation position
"This is a neutral position that allows you to release tension from your body," says Lynne.
STEP 1: Lie on your back on a mat with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart and parallel. Have a folded towel under your head to keep your head and neck in line with your spine, and lay your arms by your sides. Take a few deep breaths through your nose, wide and full, into the back and sides of your ribcage.
STEP 2: Breathe out through your nose, then gently engage your pelvic floor muscles, drawing from back to front and up inside like an internal zip until you feel your lower abdomen hollow slightly (this connects your core muscles). Breathe in and release. Repeat, but this time try adding a few breaths as you hold.