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Whole Body Exercise For Home


Suzanne Donahue


            With gyms closed and shelter in place extended, it’s important to continue to get physical exercise to help deal with stress and keep moving. I’m very thankful to be able to do Pilates at home with usually nothing more than my mat and laptop or phone!



I think Pilates is one of the best whole body exercises you can do. Here are some reasons why:

  1.     Full body strengthening- core strengthening involves back of shoulders, abdominals especially the transverse abdominis, back and glutes. It works both the front and the back side of the body leading to better symmetry.
  2.     Efficiency- Pilates is based on quality of movement vs quantity of movement so each exercise is usually only done 10 reps. As a physical therapist, I feel this is so important to perform each exercise correctly instead of doing 3 sets of 15 of each exercise but not paying attention to form. 
  3.     Flexibility- Pilates focuses on spinal flexibility in all 3 planes and has greatly improved my flexibility overall.
  4.     Improved Posture- because you focus on anterior and posterior muscle chain, this helps improve muscle balance and posture. This is a founding principle I use as a Physical therapist and love how Pilates uses this same belief. 
  5.     Decrease pain- Most people know that if they improved their “core” they will have less back pain. I think Pilates is the most effective way to do this. With the attention to quality of motion, engagement of the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor and using your own body instead of a machine, Pilates is a very safe way of improving core strength. Pilates is gentle and low impact but has a variety of exercises to challenge anyone. 
  6.     Decrease stress- this is one I didn’t really fully understand until I was doing Pilates more consistently. Pilates focuses on deep breathing to help engage the core and focus on each exercise. 
  7.     Decrease risk for injury-Pilates is a perfect complement to running, biking or other sports because these types of ex’s use the same muscle groups all the time. This leads to muscle imbalance.  Pilates helps to rebalance the body.  It definitely helped my running form and endurance! It also helps decrease risk of injury because I work all my muscle groups with Pilates. 



Just a brief overview. Pilates was founded in the early 1900s by Joseph Pilates during the first world war as a way to help wounded soldiers recover when they were bed ridden. He came to New York city in the 1926 and started training ballet dancers. In the 1970s Pilates came to Hollywood and became popular with celebrities and by the early 90s gained momentum to the general population. Today many pro athletes use Pilates as a way to complement their training and improve their efficiency. 



My story:

            I started taking Pilates in 2005 when one of my co-workers became certified and started teaching classes. I was curious about Pilates and wanted to support her so I started taking classes once a week. I found the exercises were similar to a lot exercises I was prescribing to my patients. I took a break when I had my 2 children but started again in 2009, 9 weeks after I had my youngest. Upon returning, I was so surprised on how little abdominal support I had and how difficult it was. I was also struggling with an increase of SI/back pain since the pregnancy of my first child 3 years ago. So, I made a commitment to myself to go to this class every week and slowly it got easier and my pain went away. I grew to really love how Pilates felt and was the 1 hr. a week I set aside for myself! 

My friend and Pilates instructor moved in 2017 and I felt a little lost at what I should do. I wanted to continue with taking Pilates but didn’t want to have to travel to a gym to take a class. One of my friends posted a free 7 day Pilates online challenge and I thought, why not give it a try. It was only 15 minutes each day for 7 days but I found I loved the instructor and how nice it was to just roll out my mat and press play at home. I joined this online membership group after the challenge and have been doing 15 to 30 minutes of Pilates 5-7 days a week for close to 3 years. I have found the consistency of the shorter workouts is better than an hour once a week for me and I can do it at home so it’s super-efficient. 


I know that starting an exercise program can be daunting but I wanted to share my love of Pilates to show how starting small can lead to great consistency and benefits! Even 15 minutes a day can show great results and decrease pain and stress. Check out my video for some suggestions online where you can try pilates. 


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