Women who practice mat-based Pilates consistently for at least 6 months may improve life satisfaction, total physical self-concept and perceptions of their own appearance, functionality and health status, according to research published in Women & Health (2011; 51 , 240–55).
Researchers from Portugal and Germany set out to examine whether practicing Pilates as a mind-body exercise would positively impact a woman’s individual attitude toward herself and her health. They randomly assigned 80 healthy women, aged 25–55, to either a Pilates group or a control group. No participants had prior Pilates experience. To remain in the trial, Pilates group members were required to attend 85% of the 2-hour Pilates classes, which were offered four times weekly for 6 months. Sixty-two women completed the study. Control group members received no training but were instructed to maintain existing physical activity levels.
At baseline, after 3 months and at program’s end, an assessor (who did not know group member assignments) supervised participants’ self-completion of a questionnaire. Questions used the Satisfaction With Life Scale, the Physical Self-Concept Scale, and the EQ VAS, a part of the EQ-5D that measures perception of health—all valid and reliable tools.
Data analysis showed no significant differences between control and Pilates group members at baseline or after 3 months. After 6 months, however, Pilates group members showed significant improvements in life satisfaction, total physical self-concept, perceptions of appreciation by other people and perceptions of their own physical appearance, functionality and health status. Limitations of the study included its small sample size and the fact that a non-Pilates-based exercise group was not included as a control group, so researchers could not compare the results of one style of exercise with those of another.
“The significance of this study,” said lead author Ana Cruz-Ferreira, MA, an assistant professor at the department of sport and health at the University of Évora, in Portugal, “is that the Pilates method can be used to improve a healthy woman’s quality of life, which contributes to her psychological well-being. And, by improving life satisfaction, physical self-concept and perception of health status are all improved.”