Pilates Classes Improve Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Joseph Pilates developed the exercise system bearing his name to be a low-impact fitness routine that would be suitable for anyone and that could also enhance mindfulness and mood.

As the exercise system grew in popularity,  healthcare settings began adopting it, but not  without a healthy dose of scepticism. As an  exercise practice that is suitable for many 90- year-olds, does it offer the rigors necessary  for various health benefits? The research has  demonstrated a robust collection of benefits in  health and rehabilitation, in many cases ex ceeding that of other forms of exercise. This  past June, Alexei Wong (Marymount University  - USA) and colleagues added cardiovascular  risk factors to the list of benefits.1 

Pilates is a method of exercise focusing on  controlled movement, stretching, and breath ing. Practitioners describe Pilates as having six  major components: centering, concentration,  control, precision, flow, and breathing.2 As a  general fitness routine, research finds Pilates to  be strong for improving flexibility and dynamic balance and moderate for building muscular  strength.3 A 2018 systematic review finds that,  as a rehabilitation tool, evidence supports the  effectiveness of Pilates in the treatment of a  range of orthopaedic conditions including low  back pain, ankylosing spondylitis, post menopausal osteoporosis, non-structural scolio sis, and chronic neck pain.4 The effectiveness  even bears out against fitness controls such as  stationary cycling.  

To date, the potential effectiveness of Pilates  for vascular function has not been well documented. This is why Wong et al. conducted a  randomized controlled trial measuring a range  of cardiovascular risk factors.1 Their subjects  were obese women with hypertension. After  only 12 weeks of Pilates classes led by a  credentialed instructor, researchers compared  outcomes to a waitlist control group. The fol 

lowing improvements were measured:

 • Brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity to meas ure arterial stiffness improved an average  of 0.7 m/s. 

• Aortic systolic blood pressure improved 6  mm Hg. 

Body fat composition improved 2%. • Plasma nitric oxide levels increased 6 µM. 

The study authors note that obese women may  find general aerobic classes or group resistance training uninviting. The same can hold true for some senior citizens. Wong et al. note  that they were interested in the effectiveness  of Pilates for cardiovascular risk factors be cause patients may perceive the low-impact,  “for-anyone” approach as more inviting, which,  in turn, could prove more conducive to patient  adherence.  

Group classes at Advanced Physio offer easy  access to guided exercise with low cost and  the benefits of socialisation. Additionally, all  participants receive a physiotherapy or exercise physiology assessment prior to enrolment.  This assessment can determine the suitability of  movements & exercise intensity, teach patients  to skip or modify any exercises as needed,  and give patients additional resources as  indicated to enhance the effectiveness of their  exercise routines. All classes are led by a  physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.  Having group exercise available side-by-side  with physiotherapy ensures sufficient individualised attention while offering the benefits of  classes. 



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