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Pilates Improves Fitness and Trains Core Muscles

Regular Pilates mat classes can significantly improve body composition, flexibility and core musculature endurance, according to results from two small Pilates studies presented at the 2006 annual meeting
of the American College of Sports Medicine, held in Denver, Colorado.

In one study, from Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, researchers followed 22 participants with no prior Pilates training: Nine subjects enrolled in a Pilates mat group, and 13 functioned as
a control group. Pre- and posttest measurements included body fat, upper- and lower-body flexibility, and abdominal and low-back muscular endurance. The Pilates group took 1-hour traditional mat classes three times per week; participants were required to attend at least 85% of all classes. The control group agreed to continue their normal activity and eating practices. After 8 weeks, participants in the Pilates mat group—but not the control group—had significantly improved in all parameters except for body weight and hip and thigh circumferences, where there were no significant changes.

Another study, performed at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, compared deep abdominal muscle activation in subjects with and without Pilates training. Researchers measured the activation of the transversus abdominis (TA) muscle in 12 subjects with at least 6 months of Pilates training and in 46 healthy and fit subjects with no Pilates experience. In Pilates-trained participants, abdominal circumference was larger but TA activation was also greater. Study authors concluded that Pilates training improves conditioning of core muscles.

Both studies appeared in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2006; 38 [5, Suppl.], S279–80).

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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