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Pilates for that 'well-rounded' body!

There's no better season than summer to strut that fit and enviously toned body at the pool, is there? Work up all those lethargic muscles with Pilates and herald the heat with a hot bod, looking all tall and lean. Not to mention that it's the go-to workout for Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Cindy Crawford and Hugh Grant! And hey, did you forget already the Pilates work done on Pippa Middleton's bC*um, I mean the rear department? Pilates has been all the rage since it was created in the early 1920s by a German physical culturist named Joseph Pilates, who propounded the system of using one's natural body weight to stay fit.

Today, the exercise is incorporated in various fitness regimens -- from aerobics and body conditioning to simple stretching -- and can be simply performed on a flat, cushioned Pilates mat, or on specially designed Pilates equipment like Reformer, Trapeze Table, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Magic Circle or Barrels, for those eager to push it up a notch.

If you're already a gym-rat who's sweating up a 10 km/hour on the treadmill everyday or if you're someone who's never stuck it out of the potato couch, then Pilates is an exercise form that can help you develop flexibility and strengthen your core body system: stomach, pelvis and lower back.

Originally taught by Joseph Pilates as "Contrology," today, Pilates ranks as a true mind and body engaging exercise, teaching you how to integrate awareness of breathing, concentration, control of form, alignment of bodily posture and precision in body movements.

The overall result is a balanced and efficient body that can perform all tasks, decreasing the amount of stress placed on joints and muscles.

Apart from the benefits of increased core strength, it also aids in sculpting and shaping the pelvic floor muscles that are especially responsible for bowel and bladder function.

This largely benefits in thwarting pregnancy woes, helping to maintain urinary continence, and stabilizing the pelvis and lower back.

"Pilates helps people to feel better in their daily life. One can move in a more efficient way -- better standing, sitting, even walking," said Pilates fitness trainer Nathalie Jabroun.

"It relieves stress and pain in the body and it's very advisable for women who are suffering from back and neck pain. It adjusts posture, alignment and provides the body with positive energy." Pilates is a great rehabilitation exercise for those suffering from muscular imbalance, musculoskeletal conditions and spinal injuries, provided it's performed under the supervision of a trained clinical Pilates physiotherapist.

It has been a tried and tested post-injury workout sworn by the likes of Madonna and Jennifer Aniston.

Also, if you're a yoga enthusiast, then Pilates is something you'll thank yourself for including in your workout, while having to twist and contort your poor body appendages in strange asana poses! Pilates works in concurrence with yoga, rushing in to develop posture where yoga aids in better flexibility.

Pilates can also be improvised with a variety of tools and equipment, of which Bosu Pilates has emerged as one of the most popular.

Bosu is a stability training device that resembles a half-cut ball with an unstable squishy top surface. Performing Pilates exercises on Bosu helps to develop balance and muscle awareness, as you need to constantly engage your core muscles and those in the upper and lower extremities of the body to keep stable.

It can also be used to create variety and challenge your regular workouts, as Bosu can prove quite a mettle for testing balance, agility and strength.

"Pilates focuses more on strengthening the body, increasing flexibility and co-ordination, improving posture and movement performance, which cannot be obtained with jogging and running. This is why I advice my clients to alternate between cardio training and Pilates. You can do 2-3 sessions of Pilates per week with 2 cardio sessions in between", suggested Jabroun.

Although Pilates should not be viewed as a replacement to cardio exercises like jogging and walking, especially if your goal is weight loss, it is a beneficial complementary choice of workout to your "well-rounded" exercise regimen. Especially if Pippa Middleton got one!

Copyright: Arab News 2012 All rights reserved.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Jun 12, 2012
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