Recent research from Mindbody showed that Pilates has been one of the most popular exercise classes people in Australia have gravitated to after lockdown ended.
The now nearly 100-year-old mind and body exercise methodology has been incredibly popular among mums, and increasingly mums-to-be, with indoor and outdoor classes popping up all over parks, beaches, gyms and more across the Northern Beaches.
When we look at the range of classes available, including mat, reformer, clinical Pilates for rehabilitation, pre and post-natal Pilates, as well as the incredible benefits it delivers – it’s not hard to see why.
Firstly, Pilates encompasses an all-body exercise and wellness routine. We become aware of and start to use all of the muscles and joints in our bodies. It encourages us to move in all directions, as opposed to some exercises that confine to a few muscle groups.
This holistic nature helps undo some of the day-to-day things we neglect can be harmful to our bodies over time – working hunched over at a desk, picking up heavy bags and gradually heavier kids, and arching our necks looking at devices. These movements are one-directional – meaning some muscles become overworked and others underused. Pilates is all-directional, helping to balance this out. It’s also mostly a low-impact form of exercise so perfect for anyone recovering from injuries, managing arthritis or looking after their body during pregnancy.
The social aspect is a huge draw for mums too – many classes are bespoke to different skill levels, allowing like-minded people to connect and progress together in a friendly class environment. While we’ve seen some mums savour their Pilates time as valuable ‘me time’ away from family commitments, we’re doing more and more classes for parents and kids from about the age of 10 taking part. Pilates is becoming really popular amongst teenagers and is an excellent form of exercise which compliments dance, athletics, gymnastics and other sports and activities.
The timing is crucial too – some exercises such as 45-minute to one-hour classes and long-distance running simply don’t suit mums with less time in their day. Pilates can provide a full workout in the space of about 20-to-30 minutes, and their soaring popularity across the Beaches means classes are available at a variety of times throughout the day and week.
I’ve touched on it already – Pilates has become hugely important exercise during and after pregnancy. The hormone relaxin is produced during pregnancy and childbirth, and is essential for loosening our bodies and enabling childbirth. However, in our daily lives it makes us much more flexible around our joints, and Pilates can help strengthen the muscles around these joints and maintain our stability to reduce the risk of injury.
Some forms of exercise are discouraged or impossible in the latter stages of pregnancy – for example, HIIT exercises, heavy lifting or performing certain exercises on your back. Pilates is not just a suitable exercise during pregnancy, but one that can help lower stress on our bodies and minds. It encourages you to listen to your body as it changes, though there are certain methods to follow to ensure you and your baby are protected, so it’s worth seeking the advice of a qualified pre-natal Pilates instructor.
This value continues after giving birth too – post-natal Pilates is a great way to return to exercise. It does require a slow return – as with most exercises – but it’s an ideal way to help re-strengthen your body.
Pilates isn’t just a great form of exercise, but increasingly it’s become an integral part of injury recovery and strengthening for physiotherapy treatment. Better yet, studies show outright that it can help prevent further injury.
There are some misconceptions that Pilates requires a certain level of fitness or skill to perform, but this really is an exercise for everyone. Instructors love to see fresh faces in classes, and if classes aren’t your thing there are plenty of good self-learning videos out there to get you started from your home, back garden or wherever you feel comfortable. You can even check in with your local studio and see if they are hosting any Zoom classes you can try from your own home. It’s a nice way to get started and ensure you are still getting some modified instructions based on your skill.
I have been a physio and exercise instructor for many years and I’m convinced our bodies LOVE Pilates, so however and wherever you choose to practice, your body will thank you for it!
Aoife Casey is Owner and Clinical Director of Your Body Physio & Pilates in Balgowlah Heights. She is a qualified and experienced Physiotherapist and mat, reformer and pre and post-natal Pilates instructor, offering a range of classes to suit all mums and families.