Millions of Americans use Pilates to improve core strength, enhance flexibility, and recover from injuries — but did you know Pilates works just as well on your mind as it does on your body?
If you suffer sleepless nights and high levels of stress, hop onto a reformer for a reinvigorating Pilates session and you’ll feel better in no time.
From better emotional management to a full night’s rest, these are the five ways Pilates can optimize your mental health.
It Promotes Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the key to managing your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. People often look to mindfulness meditation or yoga to increase their own self-awareness, but Pilates can provide the same benefit in the form of a challenging workout. Practicing Pilates requires slowed movements and controlled breathing.
Exercising this control helps to improve sensory awareness, which has shown to help practitioners relax.
In a 2013 study, researchers compared the measured mindfulness scores of both Pilates practitioners and groups that practiced other recreational exercises.
Among other factors, researchers tested for self-regulatory behavior, perceived stress, and overall mood.
After monitoring both groups over the course of 15 weeks, the researchers found that the Pilates group had shown signs of significantly improved mindfulness.
It Makes Us Happier
We often underestimate the strong connection between our bodies and our minds.
If you experience chronic pain that restricts your movement and reduces your quality of living, you’ll likely find that your mental health will suffer.
Alternatively, undealt with negative emotions can manifest physically in the form of a tense neck and shoulder muscles, aching hips, and a stiff jaw. Pilates helps practitioners find relief by easing tension in all of these problem areas.
Practicing Pilates also helps your body produce endorphins. Endorphins help to alleviate pain and boost feelings of satisfaction.
It Improves Cognitive Function
Strength training exercises like Pilates are strongly associated with improved neuroplasticity and cognitive functioning. With consistent exercise, you’re promoting the growth of new brain cells, otherwise known as neurogenesis.
This helps reverse brain shrinkage in the hippocampus, your brain’s memory center. Increased neurogenesis is also linked to better problem solving, improved learning abilities, and a higher overall IQ.
It Improves Our Mental Health
If you suffer from a form of depression or anxiety, it can be hard to motivate yourself to workout.
To a person who is battling depression, getting to the gym for a workout can feel impossible. With Pilates, exercise doesn’t have to feel like a difficult voyage — you can accomplish a challenging, low-impact workout from the comfort of your own home.
While you exercise, you’ll begin to feel your symptoms melt away. A recent study on the effects of Pilates on mental health showed that with consistent practice, Pilates can help alleviate symptoms related to depression and anxiety, as well as feelings of fatigue.
You’ll Sleep Better
Is your stress following you to bed at night? If you can’t seem to get a good night’s rest no matter how hard you try, you might want to look toward Pilates for your answer.
Doing any kind of physical exercise can help burn off excess energy and regulate your sleeping pattern. Pilates, however, is an especially great way to ensure that you drift off to dreamland for a full eight hours.
That’s because Pilates forces you to take control of both our body and your mind. The meditative aspects of Pilates will give you the tools you need to clear your head of any stressful thoughts when it’s time to rest.
So what are you waiting for? Give Pilates a try! With these incredible mental health benefits and the added benefits of improved physical strength and flexibility, you’ll experience an elevated quality of life of which no other exercise can compare.
About The Author:
Giulia Ramsey is an avid advanced Reformer Pilates practitioner who has studied in Germany and the U.S. Her fitness mantra is the Joseph Pilates quote, “Pilates is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” Giulia is CMO of Pilates Direct, the authorized North America distributor for STOTT Pilates, Peak Pilates, and Elina Pilates equipment and reformers.