Pilates is the kind of workout you might group in the 'relaxing exercise' category, along with yoga and swimming. But that might not be giving it as much credit as it deserves.
Can pilates help you lose weight? Why yes, indirectly it can if that's your specific goal. Can it help you feel more awake? Yup. Can it help you build physical strength? Again, yes.
"Pilates is complete co-ordination of body, mind and spirit and is an extremely powerful tool to use and have for optimum health," pilates expert Gaby Noble tells Cosmopolitan UK.
Whatever your intention for starting pilates - whether it's for physical reasons or for mental health ones - Gaby says the same things happen to everyone who practices it regularly. "Once clients become aware of their body and how they are moving, and begin to strengthen and stretch muscles they never knew they had, the feeling of increased wellbeing elevates the spirit and a better positive attitude appears," she says.
As well as making you feel better inside yourself, here are all the ways pilates can impact your body:
Pilates rebalances your body and helps accelerate your training and recovery periods.
"It's often believed that the only way to sculpt our bodies is to burn as many calories as possible by hitting the gym 7 days a week, jumping into as many HIIT classes as possible or pounding the streets every day," says pilates expert Gaby. "Yes, this will burn calories, but if your body is not firing on all the right cylinders and you have muscle imbalances and joint pain, your body will be less efficient."
Gaby explains the body can become inflamed if your exercise of choice is constantly hard-hitting, because it's trying to protect weaknesses. But introducing pilates can ensure balance in the body, "making sure that all joints are working correctly and the muscles are equal". This, in turn, should prevent injury and pain.
2. Nervous system/adrenals
Pilates calms your nervous system, reducing your cortisol levels and making it easier to lose weight.
"Pilates is low-impact and incorporates breathing exercises, meaning it's got the ability to calm the nervous system down," says the expert. This is important not only to avoid burnout, but also to prevent cortisol levels rising, which are known to prevent weight loss because cortisol stimulates glucose production, which can then turn into fat.
"Pilates will lower your cortisol levels, making you feel calmer and more in-tune with your body and surroundings," says Gaby.
3. Lean and sculpted muscles
Pilates stretches and strengthens to help create the long, lean and sculpted look.
If you spend the majority of your time sitting behind a desk, pilates could be the antidote to the tightened muscles you might not even know you've got as a result. "Breathing keeps us alive and breathing into our muscles is just as important and it keeps them healthy and alive," says the pilates expert. "When muscles get shortened and tight from working out, sitting at a desk, driving etc, lactic acid builds up and less oxygen can get into the blood stream.
"Practising pilates, you are taken through a series of precise, controlled movements that were created to work the body through all muscle groups while working on posture and functionality." This "stretches and strengthens" your muscles simultaneously, toning them and enabling them to recover better during exercise.
Pilates teaches you to control your body and mind which reduces stress and anxiety.
If one of your body's downfalls is its susceptibility to anxiety and stress, pilates can help with this. "It teaches you how to control your body better when put under physical or mental stress," explains Gaby. "A key principle in pilates is breathing. You learn to breathe deeper into your centre and around your body, which helps trigger the brain to calm down, creating a psychological response in the body that naturally decreases stress and anxiety.
"Learn to control your body and mind and you’ll be able to control whatever comes your way," advises the expert.
Pilates can drastically improve your posture which gives you more energy and keeps your organs healthy.
Your ballet teacher might have drummed good posture into your six-year-old brain, but two weeks into your first office job and you'll probably have forgotten everything she said. Pilates could be the answer!
"By strengthening the core, shoulders and glutes whilst stretching out the chest, spine and hips, you will have more energy as your lung capacity will increase giving more oxygen to the body and brain," says Gaby. "Good posture also keeps your organs healthy by not squishing them all day when sitting down."
Gaby Noble is a leading pilates expert and owner of renowned Classical Pilates studio, Exhale Pilates London.