The physical benefits of Pilates are well-known: it improves muscle strength and tone, encourages good postural habits, and helps with injury prevention and rehabilitation. Less talked about, however, is its relationship with mental health.
In this article, we will explore how Pilates can potentially boost your mental well-being while improving your physical health.
Focus on Breathing
Breath and emotions are closely intertwined—think, for example, about how your breathing quickens when you’re scared or anxious. Conversely, you are encouraged to breathe slowly and deeply to calm down.
Pilates is an excellent way to learn breath control, as each exercise involves a specific breathing pattern that enhances the effectiveness of your movements. The practice helps supply oxygen to the muscles and calms the nervous system, thus lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
Many individuals achieve mindfulness (and, subsequently, mental wellness) through meditation. However, this is challenging for high-strung, anxious, and stressed individuals who are unable to stop their mind’s chatter.
If you find it difficult to sit in the same spot and empty your mind, consider taking Pilates. The exercise requires you to focus inward and develop an awareness of your body while keeping your mind busy; because you have to concentrate on executing the movements precisely, your mind is less likely to wander to work and other daily tasks.
Manage Depression and Anxiety
Pilates allows you to step away from your hectic life and unwind, reducing feelings of unrest and instability.
In a 2011 study, researchers found that Pilates has a positive impact on women, increasing their serotonin levels and decreasing their depression severity (Hassan & Amin, 2011).
Another study (2021) posits that physical activity can help with the treatment of mental health disorders. While this suggests that any exercise helps, we recommend Pilates for those with depression and anxiety—being gentle and low impact, Pilates is approachable for those struggling with common physical symptoms like fatigue and loss of appetite.
Better Sleep Habits
Lack of sleep can wear down your mind and increase the production of cortisol, thus impacting your mental and physical health.
Practising Pilates can be beneficial as it relaxes the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep at night. Not only does it help you sleep longer, but it also improves the quality of sleep and REM cycles. Hence, it can alleviate your mental fatigue.
Constant stress wreaks havoc on the body and mind: an overload of cortisol affects your sleep quality, blood sugar levels, and diet, ultimately hurting your mental health.
Pilates helps decrease the production of stress hormones (like cortisol) in your body while increasing the release of feel-good hormones like endorphins and dopamine. As such, regular practice can relieve stress and tension.
In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it is easy to let your mental health take the backseat. Hence, we recommend trying Pilates: by making it a regular part of your routine, you can boost your mental and emotional well-being for a better quality of life.
Hassan, E.A., & Amin, M.A. (2011). Pilates Exercises Influence on the Serotonin Hormone, Some Physical Variables and the Depression Degree in Battered Women. World Journal of Sport Sciences, 5(2), 89 - 100.
Smith, P. J., & Merwin, R. M. (2021). The Role of Exercise in Management of Mental Health Disorders: An Integrative Review. Annual Review of Medicine, 72, 45-62. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-med-060619-022943