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Getting your body back to health with Pilates

Muscle strengthening developed through Pilates exercises can help with recovery from pregnancy and illness

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pilates, exercise, fitness, stretching

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I once worked for a company that got REALLY UPSET if you didn’t spell out the corporate name in ALL CAPS.

Conversely, I think Joseph Pilates (were he still alive) would only be slightly miffed at those who spell Pilates with the first letter lower case. See, because unlike yoga, which is Hindi for “union,” Pilates is named for the guy who invented it; a guy named Joe, but I digress.

In addition to the more widely known benefits of Pilates, specifically strengthening the core, I’d heard that the practice was useful for things like arthritis and fibromyalgia. To get more information on this, I sought out the help of certified mat Pilates instructor Lori Weisbrod, who is based in Toronto and specializes in using Pilates to treat these conditions.

Weisbrod has suffered with arthritis since she was 18, but has been able to make her fibromyalgia asymptomatic through Pilates.

“It’s a chronic condition and there are different forms,” she told me. “Fibromyalgia is a syndrome in which people experience long-term pain all throughout their body. There’s no medical treatment for it, except for exercise. It needs to be a low impact exercise that doesn’t put too much stress on joints or muscles. Pilates is perfect for it because it works every muscle, yet it doesn’t overstretch or harm the body. You’re working through movements and not holding postures.”

On that note, she didn’t think yoga was a good choice for people with fibromyalgia because she believes holding poses can be too difficult. Pilates, on the other hand, involves constant slow movement.

“It is a type of resistance training that focuses on the spine, and is very good if you have joint problems because it strengthens muscles around those joints,” said Lisa Johnson, a certified Pilates instructor and owner of Modern Pilates studios in Boston. “It helps to get rid of a lot of people’s aches and pains by stabilizing them.”

Weisbrod asserts Pilates is a safe choice for people with arthritis and fibromyalgia because you are, “using your own body as the resistance so it strengthens the body. You can’t really harm yourself because your body is going to tell you if it’s too much. It improves range of motion of the joints and strengthens muscles around those joints. It also improves your stamina, which is an issue with fibromyalgia because it can cause chronic fatigue.”

Johnson recommends DVDs by Stott Pilates, Alycea Ungaro, and Karena Lineback for at-home exercising. I don’t have arthritis, but I think I’ll dig out some of those Stott Pilates DVDs my wife has and give them a try.

James S. Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, AB. Visit www.bodyforwife.com or email him at james@bodyforwife.com.