Pilates is a discipline that has numerous benefits that can be emerging from the first session, and increase as we progress in this sport discipline. These results will depend on our initial level, and the main objective we want to achieve.
In a week we can already see how we have slightly increased our flexibility if we start from a very low initial level, but if our goal is weight loss may take a little longer.
We are going to describe the main benefits of Pilates, at the same time that we develop in a very generic way the time that we can take to see the results. It will depend on the hours we dedicate to Pilates, both within the session and at home, and how far we are from the starting point with respect to the expected result.
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Increased flexibility and joint mobility
If we measure our flexibility and joint mobility at the beginning of the session, and compare it with the one we have at the end of it, we will see how in just one hour we have improved this quality. But this is a temporary improvement, that when we let some time pass after the session will be lost.
However, these momentary improvements in each session can become chronic improvements in just a few weeks. We can observe it in daily tasks such as going from not being able to fasten the laces of our shoes while standing, to being able to do so.
All results are achieved after a long run, no sprinting. Weight loss may be the most time consuming. Pilates itself is only one of the factors that come into play in this goal and is useless for weight loss if it is not accompanied by a proper diet and other types of exercise such as strength and resistance training.
Putting it all together we can begin to lose weight in the first week of Pilates practice. This weight loss should be gradual, not abrupt, and Pilates can be an activity that will help us in the process.
Increased strength and muscle mass
The increase in muscle strength is a process that occurs before the increase in muscle mass. This is because neural adaptations occur first, and after that the muscular adaptations begin.
During the first 12 weeks the improvement in muscle strength will occur exponentially, and we can see how from one session to another we are able to perform more repetitions of an exercise, or hold a posture for longer.
After those 8 – 12 weeks, improvements in strength go hand in hand with a possible increase in muscle mass. Like weight loss, muscle mass gain depends on other factors that must be taken into account in order to achieve results.
Eating enough calories with the right amount of protein and training with frequent weights are necessary for us to be able to observe this increase in muscle mass in the medium and long term.
Improved posture and motor control
Pilates can achieve from the first class excellent results in our postural control. Some basic tips such as knowing how to use the hip as a hinge to bend down to pick up an object from the floor, or control our scapulae to avoid a slouch, can be learned in one session and remain fixed forever.
This motor control to know how to move efficiently and avoid harmful movements, together with improved flexibility and joint mobility, will greatly increase the quality of our movements. One of the greatest beneficiaries of this improvement is our back, as we will see below.
Reduction of back pain
While it is true that we can achieve some benefits in the first week after starting Pilates, back pain is one of the most complex objectives to achieve. We will be able to see how little by little that pain begins to be less, and in the medium or long term it could even disappear.
For this to happen, each of the above benefits must be achieved. An improvement in the flexibility and articular mobility of the hip helps us to free the back so that it does not move, since the function of the lumbar area is to give stability to the body, not mobility.
When hip mobility is not enough, the lumbar spine moves to solve it. But once sufficient mobility is achieved, the lumbar spine starts to perform its function of stability. Losing weight will also help us to increase the compression between vertebrae.
In addition, if we increase our strength in areas such as the gluteus, the main muscle in Pilates, the lumbar musculature will be less loaded because it is our gluteus that will now work more. This is why it is one of the most powerful muscles in our body, but in many cases of back pain it is deactivated.
All of the above, added to the fact that we now control our movements better, will make those harmful gestures disappear. Pilates is therefore a perfect tool to prevent and improve back pain. But for it to work, it is necessary to think in the long term (between one and two months at least) and not to be short-sighted.
Improvements in mental health: attention and stress.
Pilates and yoga have many things in common. One of them is that during the session we focus on our breathing and pay attention to our body, moving away from everything outside. That behavior helps us to shut out possible “outside noise” during the session.
As with back pain, results can be seen in a short time, but it is not possible to give a data in that sense as it depends greatly on the amount of noise we have outside, and the work we do outside the Pilates session.