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Most people start doing Pilates because they want to strengthen their core or recover from injury, but the benefits of Pilates go far beyond flat abs and strong muscles. The transformational effects of Pilates operate in a similar fashion to the process of building abdominal strength. Core Stability first develops at the deepest layers of your abdominals, the fourth layer called the transversus abdominus. This inside to outside progression is also apparent in the mood and emotional development of the client.

The physical effects speak for themselves – defined waistlines, weight loss, muscle tone, increased flexibility and ROM – but some of the less tangible benefits are a bit more difficult to quantify.

A dramatic change unfolds in front of your eyes while you train the after-work, rushing-home-in-traffic with no sunlight and an empty stomach professionals. Anecdotal evidence is all we have as the instructors of the busy mom who sneaks away for her biweekly Pilates sessions and shares it is the fastest hour of her day. These are the hallmark experiences of long-term clients. It’s sort of like drinking the “Pilates-Kool Aid” (those are air quotes), but way yummier and so much better for you!

The Study

I recently read a study involving women struggling with depression at a residential battered women’s center. The women each did 30-45 minutes of Pilates, 3 days a week in a group class setting over a 12 week period.

The researchers measured levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter well-known for its mood-boosting effects, before the women initiated a Pilates program and once again after the 12 weeks were complete. In addition to serotonin, they measured depression levels (by a 21 question survey called Beck Depression Inventory commonly used in research and clinical settings), blood pressure, flexibility, endurance, and strength (via a tool called a dynamometer) before and after the intervention.

As you might have guessed, the change in mood and mental well-being of the women was significant. Similar to the hard to describe good vibes we feel at the end of each class or session, the women sharde a sense of relief and accomplishment.

Pilates Fights Depression

After 12 weeks of regular Pilates classes, the women had a significant increase in serotonin and 34% drop in severity of depression. That level of improvement rivals the effects of some SSRIs, a class of anti-depressant medications that target serotonin’s action in the brain.

Pilates literally boosts your mood, but don’t take my word for it:

” The monoamines in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, have an improved transmission rate when exercising occurs. This is beneficial for those depressed because such chemicals in the brain directly affect on mood.” – Hassan

Other Physical Benefits of Pilates

It probably goes without saying, but the womens’ muscular endurance was significantly improved (by 38%), including abdominal muscle endurance. Their flexibility increased 48% and the participants boosted the overall strength of their abdominal, back, and leg muscles.

Last but not least, blood pressure was significantly reduced.

Literally every parameter that they measured improved, significantly. (That’s research speak for more than a little bit and reassurance that the effects weren’t just do to coincidence.)

We can all attest that the weather clearly impacts our mood, for better and for worse. The sun came out last week in Detroit and everyone had a renewed sense of happiness. My husband loves to tell me that we can’t control the weather…but I can reassure you that we can control how good we FEEL and look!

See you on the reformer!