Achieving physical fitness doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend hours each day working out. In fact, even short blocks of exercise performed on a daily basis can result in significant health benefits. Pilates routines can be designed for your daily workout and are an excellent option for full-body fitness. Pilates offers a broad spectrum of movements so it's easy to mix things up to maintain interest and enthusiasm and, because the floor work can be done in pretty much any place that has adequate floor space, this popular form of exercise can easily be incorporated into the busiest of schedules.
Pilates: An Overview
Pilates strengthens and streamlines the muscles, improves posture and promotes good balance via exercises that target the "core" -- namely, the four muscles that comprise the full range of the abdominal musculature (transversus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques and rectus abdominis). Pilates moves are meant to be done in a carefully controlled manner, with emphasis placed on slow repetitions that reduce or eliminate "cheating" through momentum or swinging of the limbs or body.
Daily Pilates for Beginners
If you are new to Pilates, start with a few stretches and some deep breaths. As you inhale, expand your ribs; on the inhale, contract them. This movement will by default wake up your abdominals. Good choices for beginning daily Pilates routines include the hundred, the roll-up, single leg circles, rolling like a ball, single leg stretch, double leg stretch and spine stretch forward. Move with deliberation and control during each repetition, and don't forget to breathe!
Daily Pilates for Intermediates/Advanced Practitioners
As you advance in your daily routine, you can move on to more intermediate and advanced moves. Those include the following mat exercises: the rollover, single straight leg stretch, double straight leg stretch, criss-cross, open-leg rocker, the corkscrew and the saw. Be gentle with your body as you delve into the more difficult routines, and add some beginner moves to warm up and cool down.
Before You Begin
Pilates is safe when performed correctly. Even if you plan to work out at home, it's a good idea to schedule a session with a seasoned Pilates instructor to learn the basics. Also important is checking with your doctor before you start any new regimen. Pay attention to and document any unusual pains or strains, and do not push too hard. Ease gently into your daily Pilates workout and progress to the more difficult movements as your body becomes stronger.
- The Pilates Body; Brooke Siler
- MayoClinic.com: Pilates for Beginners
- Pilates; Rael Isacowitz
Michelle Kodis has been a writer and editor for more than two decades. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, is the author of nine books and has contributed articles to various magazines, newspapers and blogs. She is also a certified Pilates instructor and studies canine therapeutic massage/acupressure.