Helia Fitness women's personal training pilates

Get a Dancer’s Body with Pilates

If you want a stronger and more graceful body, you might want to try Pilates (pil-ah-teez), an exercise routine first developed in the early 20th century. Pilates (named after its creator Joseph Pilates) is widely popular among dancers because it develops beautiful posture and solid abdominals through mental concentration, controlled breathing, stretching and resistance exercise.

You’ve probably heard that Pilates can give you longer, leaner muscles. Is this claim the real deal or hype? While exercise can’t literally make muscles grow longer or get narrower, it is true that doing Pilates can make you look and feel leaner and more lithe (think: dancer’s body).

The benefits of Pilates include improved posture and flexibility, both of which help you stand taller and move more gracefully. This mind-body exercise also focuses on engaging the core – known in Pilates circles as the body’s powerhouse. Stronger ab and back muscles perk up your posture and overall health even more. Doing this mind-body workout may quell back pain, as well, according to research.

Some Pilates exercises use specially designed contraptions found at Pilates studios or gyms. But you can also get a complete workout on just a comfy mat. Here are three pointers to help you decide if Pilates is a good fit for you.

You’re drawn to mind-body exercise but don’t want a spiritual workout. While yoga tends to emphasize spirituality and meditation, Pilates does not. Another difference: Pilates transitions from one exercise to the next faster than many yoga workouts where you hold postures for longer.

You’re detail-oriented and results-driven. If you like to know the how and why behind the exercises you do, Pilates may be your kind of workout because of its detailed instruction on alignment. Bonus: Lots of instruction means you catch on – and see results – quicker.

You love to stretch and strengthen your muscles, but recognize that cardio is important, too. An intermediate Pilates workout may be similar in effort to walking at about four miles per hour, according to one study. But, really, Pilates doesn’t take the place of cardio exercise. Try activities such as walking, running or biking to complement a Pilates routine.

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