There are plenty of exercises that can make you skinnier or more muscular, but how many can actually make you feel and look younger?
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Certain stressful, high-impact exercises can put your body under so much strain that they age you rather than keeping you young; just look at some of the information out there about the negative health effects of football.
However, pilates was created in part to make your body as strong, supple, and reliable as that of a young person. As Joseph Pilates, the creator of the discipline, put it, “If, at the age of 30, you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If, at 60, you are supple and strong, then you are young.”
Pilates makes you young in a tremendous variety of ways. It may not be a literal fountain of youth, but it helps your body to fight off the aches, pains, and injuries that tend to come crashing down on it with age.
1. Deep Breathing
One of the key principles of pilates is full, deep breathing. This helps to saturate your body with oxygen, which has a myriad of health benefits.
Deep breathing has been shown to lower your stress levels, and by doing so, it lowers your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure, relieves muscle tension, releases carbon dioxide and other natural wastes, strengthens your lungs, boosts the oxygen levels in your cells, improves your concentration, increases the blood flow to your muscles, and leaves you feeling calmer and more confident, according to Northern Michigan University.
This is a hefty load of benefits from just one aspect of the exercise! If you compare these health benefits to competitive sports, which boost your testosterone, cortisol, and other stress hormones and wear out your mind and body in the process, it’s clear that pilates is a low-stress alternative for those who can’t play pick-up basketball without feeling like a bundle of jagged nerve endings. By lowering your stress levels, pilates helps your body to age more gracefully and makes you feel years younger.
2. Low Repetitions And High Awareness
Pilates emphasizes using a small number of reps for each move rather than doing curls until your muscles feel ready to give out. This helps you to avoid repetitive stress injuries, which eventually take their toll on your bones and muscles.
It also allows you to devote all of your attention to each exercise so you maintain proper, healthy form. A repetitive workout encourages boredom, which leads to sloppy posture and misaligned muscles that cause injury in workouts. With pilates, you don’t get bored or overtired with any one move.
This lets you keep your mind focused on each movement so that your form is deliberate and precise. A body free of injury is a healthier and younger body.
3. Full Range Of Motion
On a related note, pilates trains you to work each joint and muscle through its full range of motion, strengthening your entire body and lubricating your joints.
Workouts like jogging or bicycling, while certainly healthful, will only work a specific group of muscles and bones through a handful of motions; a cyclist who doesn’t throw in core exercises on top of their cycling regimen has a good chance of putting undue, painful strain on their neck, back, arms and shoulders.
With pilates, however, there’s no need to throw in extra exercises, because the basic pilates workout will take care of all your joints and muscles through their entire range of motion. You don’t’ need to worry about being a thirty-year-old with a sixty-year-old’s back pain.
4. Mindful Transitions
Many injuries come from transitioning from one activity to another in an unsafe way; you drop something while working in the kitchen, and when you bend or twist around to pick it up, you throw something in your back.
However, because a pilates workout focuses on transitioning seamlessly and mindfully from one move to another, it trains your mind to be aware of transitions. That means that when you encounter a transition in real life, you’re more likely to go through it safely and mindfully.
By cutting down on the number of injuries you experience through careless transitions, pilates keeps your body healthy and young.
5. Exercises Reduce Pain
Whether it’s because of the deep breathing, the low-rep full-motion exercises, the transitions, or some other factor, pilates can help you to manage pain better than other forms of exercise. A 2013 study split women with osteoporosis into two exercise groups: a pilates group and a regular exercise group.
The women in the pilates group reported significantly less pain, more functionality, and a higher quality of life after a year than the women in the regular group. The anti-aging properties of pilates aren’t just pie-in-the-sky possibilities; they’re proven facts.
6. Core Exercises
Pilates is known for its emphasis on core exercises, and that is a crucial part of its anti-aging power. According to the Mayo Clinic, a strong core can improve your balance, posture, and stability while reducing your lower back pain and even your chance for random unexplained injuries.
Activities as simple as doing housework, bending over to pick things up, or just sitting in a chair all engage your core. With a weak core, you may find yourself sitting in your office chair and feeling like you have the spine of someone thirty years older than you are.
Pilates fights off the pain of everyday life by strengthening your core and making those day-to-day activities pain-free.
7. Endorphin And Serotonin Release
Like other forms of exercise, pilates releases endorphins, a natural antioxidant that helps your body fight against aging. However, pilates also releases high levels of serotonin, a particularly powerful antioxidant that scavenges more free radicals than other neurotransmitters and thus causes your cells to break down and age more slowly.
Serotonin is also one of your brain’s most potent defenses against depression and anxiety, so much so that an entire class of antidepressants is geared entirely toward helping your brain to process serotonin more efficiently.
There is nothing to make you feel old like fatigue, but pilates can help you to fight it off. A 2011 study showed that women who participated in pilates had stronger muscles, ligaments, and joints than women who did not.
This allowed them to participate in longer exercise sessions than the women who did not participate in pilates because the exercises had boosted the endurance of their muscles and bones.
The researchers also theorized that pilates’ deep breathing helped to boost the endurance of the women because the cells were more fully oxygenated and thus more able to carry blood and nutrients throughout the body, although they could not prove this theory directly.
Either way, pilates boosts your energy and helps you work out longer without feeling tired, which is a sure way to feel younger every day.