What are reasons for someone to do Pilates as his or her main fitness activity (like how other people do strength training, yoga, or running)? What does doing Pilates entail?

  • 1
    This question will only lead to discussions, voting to close as it far too vague and unspecific.
    – Baarn
    Nov 21 '12 at 23:07
  • Essential questions don't have specific answers.
    – Olav
    Nov 21 '12 at 23:12
  • Please check the FAQ: "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site"
    – Baarn
    Nov 21 '12 at 23:16
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    I have a problem about what path to take to fitness. I can imagine a lot of good answers to this question (Like perhaps its a good way to exercise the whole body without the problems of most kind of exercise)
    – Olav
    Nov 21 '12 at 23:24
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    The question is pretty broad, but it can be useful if it were rewritten to be more specific and related to the asker's perspective. As @Informaficker had mentioned from the faq, the question can be greatly improved if you mention why you are looking at Pilates, what other activities you've considered, etc., etc.
    – Matt Chan
    Nov 23 '12 at 14:44

The overall number 1 reason to choose ANY activity for fitness:

You Enjoy It
Nothing is more important than finding an activity that you discover you like doing and are eager to come back to each week. You won't make a permanent positive change in your life otherwise.

Now, reasons you might choose to try out Pilates and see if it's that kind of activity for you:

  1. Good posture has positive side effects in many other areas of your life. It affects people's impression when they see or meet you. It prevents discomfort and chronic injury from office work. There are plenty of full length books on the benefits of good posture.

  2. Learning to habituate biomechanically correct movement improves your performance in every other athletic endeavour. Dedicated pilates study will make flawless form in a movement like the barbell squat feel like a totally normal natural thing you do. Watch some video of an elite strength athlete like Mariusz Pudzianowski competing, notice the absolute perfection of movements even while doing totally absurd things. Learn to move properly as a matter of habit, rather than something you focus on for certain specific exercises then go back to having turned in hips and rolled in shoulders the rest of the day.

  3. The right selection of equipment can provide strength training in muscles that are so weak it's almost impossible to work them without having other muscles take over and compensate. If you're coming from being sedentary, you definitely have some muscle groups that are like this.

  4. Likewise the right selection of equipment can provide plenty of resistance for strength training push and pull compound body movements in all planes. If your goal is primarily putting on muscle mass, would using a barbell be faster? Of course, but it's not the one and only option for getting stronger. A Pilates program will combine strength training with balance, posture, mobility, flexibility etc. (As opposed to a program where you might say "I move a barbell for strength then do these other accessory exercises to keep those other things in line.")

  5. You can participate in progressive classes where you learn new things about moving and about your body as time goes on. Variety is important for some people, learning more, new, harder ways to say, do a lower body push movement, may (or may not) be more rewarding for you than the powerlifting approach of pursuing ever-greater weights in the same set of core movements.

  6. It is difficult to explain and I don't have references to research, but you're just plain happier and more functional when your hips aren't tight and your sacrum is properly aligned. There are lots of theories on the effect such as clearing up "neuromotor static noise" that have various levels of research around them. I can just tell you anecdotally it has been true for me.

Footnote 1: As you indicated, I am referring to Pilates practice as the primary, not only exercise. I do personally also do the major compound body movements with dumbbell/barbell for additional strength work, but time-wise I put much more into Pilates than moving iron. It simply shifts the emphasis off of adding muscle and onto those other things. I am not saying that only Pilates does those things and barbell training does not, it's just, how do you want to balance where you put your effort among all these competing concerns? Do you want to get stronger and have your posture gradually improve as a side effect, or fix your posture and get gradually stronger as a side effect? I find more time on these aspects and less on straight strength works for me.

Footnote 2: I am of course referring to studying the Pilates method in an equipped studio with a good instructor. Not flopping around on the floor of the living in front of a DVD "toning your tummy" with 2-lb. neoprene dumbbells :)

  • Thanks - great answer. Wish you would have waited a bit, so we could have gotten other inputs :-)
    – Olav
    Nov 23 '12 at 16:20
  • One reason I have been thinking about is that it is good to "cover most of the body with some exercise". People might not like regular exercise. Regular exercise might take more time, or have lower gain/pain or gain/(effort + time).
    – Olav
    Nov 23 '12 at 16:24
  • This assumes that Pilates has good "body coverage". And also it would be strongest in the 1-2times/week range.
    – Olav
    Nov 23 '12 at 16:26
  • It can. As I tried to allude in my second footnote, saying "Pilates" doesn't communicate much. It is not a trademarked term, control of the name was lost in court back when it took off around when the south beach diet was hot, etc. Anybody who wants to make a buck selling feel-good DVDs and pink dumbbells can put "Pilates" on their packaging, commercial gyms can offer "Pilates" classes taught by personal trainers with no actual training specifically in the Pilates method, etc. Being marketed as "Pilates" doesn't mean it's the exercise methods developed by Joseph Pilates and his students.
    – Affe
    Nov 23 '12 at 19:01

The overall number 1 reason to choose ANY activity for fitness:

It causes the desired adaptation in your body
Nothing is more important than finding an activity that causes the adaptations that move you toward your goals. You won't make a permanent positive change in your life otherwise.

There is no good reason a person to choose pilates as their main fitness activity (assuming the goal is fitness, rather than pleasure, or for a feeling of doing something useful).

It perhaps would be useful or pleasing as a supplementary activity, but for a main activity, strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, or a sport that works these attributes work would always be better alternatives to pilates.

  • About man/woman I will have to think a bit. I am trying to get to the essence of what Pilates is about. Its of course also useful to know why a woman would do it.
    – Olav
    Nov 21 '12 at 23:10

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