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5 Reasons Why You Should Try Pilates

5 Reasons Why You Should Try Pilates 

Guest Blog by Allison Moss

Before I share Allison’s awesome blog post, I want to thank her and Club Pilates on Mercer Island for opening up their doors to us.  As a physical therapist, I am always trying to find ways for patients to either become more active or to diversify how they move to maintain a healthy movement system. Pilates is a great option, and Allison does a great job of explaining more…

Take it away, Allison.

Pilates has blown up in the U.S. these last few years and it has everyone wondering what it is about this system that has people flocking into the studios. Pilates is a progressive approach to modern-day fitness that helps people from all walks of life come into the studio with confidence that their instructor will know how to safely and effectively give them the best workout for their body. Whether you are dealing with an injury, recovering from a surgery or just wanting to add in another form of exercise; Pilates has you covered! So, let’s take a look at a few reasons you should consider trying Pilates.

  1. Pilates focuses on the powerhouse, which is the core and back muscles or the midsection of your body. These muscles initiate and support our every movement and also help to protect our spine by strengthening the muscles that surround it. The Pilates Method develops a significantly strengthened core through specifically targeted exercises using fun and integrated techniques to challenge you with every class.
  2. Pilates is a gentle workout that isn’t going to harm the body which is mainly done on an apparatus called a Reformer. The Reformer is a bed like structure and has a carriage that is on wheels and uses resistance via springs connected underneath. Laying down and being able to work out horizontally allows you to use a resistance that is lighter than your body which is very useful for anyone going thru physical therapy or with any medical conditions.
  3. Pilates provides a full-body workout, making sure that you leave every class feeling balanced, energized and focused. Paying attention to all planes of the body, Pilates offers a whole-body commitment in every class. Connecting your mind and body to each exercise helps you understand how and why you benefit from Pilates exercises and keeps you coming back for the same good feeling every time you leave.
  4. Pilates instructors really know their stuff. A major requirement for instructors is that they know anatomy and have knowledge of injuries and medical conditions and how Pilates can help with each one. They look at the why behind each exercise and provide safe progressions for those who are ready by layering on their exercises, this means by starting with the basic foundations of the movements and adding on progressions so that everyone gets the work out they are looking for.
  5. Every class is a new experience. Pilates instructors strive to bring new innovative techniques to keep the classes fun, engaging and challenging while still keeping all the original concepts and principles. Awareness, breath, control and efficiency play a huge part in every exercise and while they keep things fun and new these are always the upmost focus of each class.



Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

 Aerobic Exercise and Benefits of Walking

By Kendall Wisehart DPT, ATC

What is aerobic exercise?

  • Simply put aerobic exercise or “cardio” is activity that requires increased activity of the heart to pump oxygen rich blood the muscles.
  • Examples include walking, running, hiking, and swimming
  • Aerobic refers to “with oxygen” whereas anaerobic refers to “without oxygen”


  • Mental benefits include increased confidence, emotional stability, memory and brain function
  • Physical benefits include strengthened heart and lungs, lower cholesterol, improved immune function, and lower blood pressure – among many others!
  • Fitness benefits include improved muscle tone, stamina, and energy levels for both work and play

Disease Prevention (via ACSM)

  • Seniors who walk 6-9 miles/week are less likely to suffer from mental decline as they age, including dementia
  • Walking 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week, along with diet changes, can halve the risk of Type II Diabetes
  • Walking 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week can halve the risk of heart disease and reduce stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure
  • Walking can reduce pain and improve function, mobility, mood, and quality of life without worsening symptoms for those with arthritis
  • Walking triggers endorphins, promotes relaxation, and can help prevent anxiety and depression

Walking 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week can halve the risk of heart disease and reduce stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure

Other benefits of walking (via ACSM)

  • Walking 45 minutes/day halves your odds of catching a cold
  • Walking 1 minute can extend life by 1.5 to 2 minutes
  • Walking 20-25 minutes/week can extend life by several years!

How do I get started?

  • If you have health issues – talk to your doctor and ask to see a physical therapist
  • Choose an activity that you enjoy. It can be as easy as walking or gardening or as intense as hiking or running
  • Find a friend! Having the support of a friend of family member will help keep you going

How much should I do?

  • For most healthy individuals: 30 minutes, 5 days a week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise OR 20 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise
  • A quick way to gauge intensity is Target Heart Rate. To calculate: 220 – (your age) x 70%. Example: 220 – 45 years old x .70 = 122.5 beats per minute (bpm)
  • You should be able to carry on a conversation with your walking partner without shortness of breath

Can I over-do it?

  • Absolutely! Just like a sedentary lifestyle, overactivity can have its own negative consequences like injury and reduced immune function
  • Developing a consistent exercise routine is key in preventing over-training, this includes rest days
  • A workout or training session is only as effective as how much you can recover from it

What’s considered “in-shape”?

  • Everyone will have their own unique definition of fitness, related to their fitness goal
  • A lower resting heart rate is just one indicator of fitness, normal RHR is 60-100 bpm

Other biomarkers like blood pressure and cholesterol may be used to determine fitness


Kendall Wisehart DPT, ATC Bio

Mood Disorders and Exercise

 Mood disorders: Does exercise matter?

By Kendall Wisehart DPT, ATC

In physical therapy, it’s easy to get caught up in the physicality of it all – muscles, bones, joints, biomechanics, and our favorite, physics. Unfortunately, what doesn’t get this well-deserved attention are the non-physical benefits, the mental and emotional benefits. Specifically, when examining mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder studies found that exercise impacts both physical and mental health outcomes. Exercise also positively affects conditions frequently associated with mood disorders such as anxiety, pain, and insomnia or other sleep disturbances.

Several mechanisms have been proposed for the anti-depressive effects of exercise, which can be divided into two categories – psychological and biological. Psychological variables include increased feelings of control (autonomy), physical wellness, quality of life, improved self-esteem / mood. Biological variables include several growth factors, oxidative stress, and genetics and their role in exercise-induced neurogenesis and anti-depressive effects.

“Studies have shown that after several weeks of moderate intensity exercise, oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory markers are decreased.”

Most of the recent work related to the anti-depressive effect of exercise and biological makers has focused on the role of BDNF or Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. By definition, BDNF supports neurogenesis or the growth of neurons. In fact, antidepressant medications up-regulate BDNF and patients with mood disorders exhibit lower levels of BDNF compared to their healthy counterparts. Simply put, BDNF may be the primary mechanism of the anti-depressive effects of exercise. While BDNF is important enough to have it’s own dedicated blog post, what’s important to know is that BDNF is essential in nerve survival, growth, and pathological levels of BDNF may contribute to psychological disorders and chronic pain sensitization.

Exercise may also impact oxidative stress. We’ve all heard the term anti-oxidant and generally accepted it as a good thing. Without going into the specifics of cellular (mitochondrial) energy production, it’s important to understand that oxidation is a normal part of the energy production system of the cell. In the absence of anti-oxidant defense, oxidative stress and cellular damage can occur. Fortunately, exercise can impact oxidative stress. This is especially important for those with mood disorders in which there are increases in inflammation and oxidative stress. Studies have shown that after several weeks of moderate intensity exercise, oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory markers are decreased. On the flip side, high intensity exercise increased oxidative stress. The summary here is simple, a balance of exercise intensity is key when achieving both physical and psychological benefits of exercise.

Finally, based on recent research, exercise has been associated with epigenetic changes that are beneficial for those with mood disorders. Epigenetic changes refer to changes in gene expression without an actual change in DNA sequence. For example, BDNF can be upregulated through these types of exercise induced changes. It has also been suggested that exercise promotes epigenetic changes that promote homeostasis, neuroplasticity, circadian rhythms, and endocrine and immune regulations.

Others have suggested that exercise induced epigenetic changes can reduce the aging process and have beneficial effects on the musculoskeletal system across the lifespan.

Exercise may be an acceptable alternative or adjunctive therapy to enhance mood, functioning, and co-morbid conditions for individuals with mood disorders. Overall, there is promising evidence to support the use of exercise in the treatment of mood disorders. Future research will focus on specific frequencies, durations and types of exercise for specific mood disorders.

For now, balance is key and something is always better than nothing – even a short walk can have it’s benefits (see upcoming post).


Kendall Wisehart DPT, ATC Bio