What is Pilates?
Created by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s, Pilates exercises and movements are designed to stretch, strengthen and balance the body. The method focuses on the concepts of awareness, balance, breath, centering, concentration, control, flowing movement and precision. The goals of traditional Pilates are to uniformly develop the body and mind, create good posture, increase abdominal muscle control and improve breathing—benefits that can carry through everyday life.
Exercise During Pregnancy
It is widely accepted in the medical community that regular exercise can complement a healthy pregnancy, delivery and recovery. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says, “For women who do not have any additional risk factors for adverse maternal or perinatal outcome, the following recommendations may be made: During pregnancy, women can continue to exercise and derive health benefits even from mild to moderate exercise routines. Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferable to intermittent activity…Non-weight bearing exercises…will minimize the risk of injury and facilitate the continuation of exercise during pregnancy.”
Why Recommend Pilates for Pregnancy?
Pilates offers pregnant women a safe exercise alternative with no bouncing or jarring—only slow, controlled movements that coordinate breath and body work, using the mind to make the exercises effective yet gentle. Pilates produces strength and flexibility, targeting the body’s core or center to create a strong mid-section—particularly the abdominals and pelvic floor muscles that are essential during childbirth. A keen awareness of the body, mind and breathing during Pilates can also improve the efficiency of delivery, especially facilitating natural birthing methods.
In addition to abdominal strength, allover body conditioning—including spinal alignment and flexibility, chest and shoulder opening and general upper and lower body strengthening and lengthening—is an integral part of Pilates that can make the entire pregnancy easier and healthier. Practicing Pilates regularly can also relieve lower back discomfort and other pregnancy-related aches and pains.
With Pilates, stretching exercises and gentle strengthening moves can be performed soon after delivery, even following a Caesarean section. Abdominal and core strength should be maintained following delivery to prevent postural problems associated with lifting, carrying and nursing a baby. Other positive benefits of a Pilates exercise program include alleviating pre- and post-partum stress.
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