I’m a huge proponent of exercise. I mean it would be weird if I wasn’t right? Can you imagine, a Nutritionist married to a heart doctor who didn’t believe in exercise? My husband Jonathan who is the Medical Director of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Health Center believes and suggests to his patients that we should all be getting at least five hours of “really sweaty”, raise your heart rate exercise per week. For those of us who believe we are active enough, i.e those who buzz around barely sitting down during the day, that doesn’t count. Regular activity is what he refers to as simply “sprinkles”. Good yes, but not nearly good enough on a daily/weekly basis for overall health.
Over the years, I think I’ve tried every exercise out there. Every passing fad, every new class that popped up at my gym or on the corner of trendy and over-priced. I’ve been a “runner”, a “spinner”, and even a “boot-camper”. A couple of years ago I got really into spinning classes. The endorphins alone I got from riding in that class to me were worth the price of admission. But, after a while my body began to disagree. In the Spring of 2017, my hip was in so much pain that I could barely move. I’m talking pain so intense that I thought I was going to pass out. I saw a spine specialist who found two herniated disks in my lower back. I found myself laid up in bed with strict orders from the Doctor to stop spinning and to start physical therapy. My immediate rehab consisted of mostly stretching. I learned how to stretch properly and was told to do it often (every hour)! I’d like to note here that I’m not blaming my injuries solely on spinning. I think it was really a combination of things. Maybe I over did it, maybe I wasn’t spinning properly or maybe as I’m getting older, that sort of exercise isn’t what’s best for my body.
I digress. The silver lining that came from those weeks of excruciating pain was a new form of exercise that my spine physiatrist recommended to me that changed my life. Pilates. My PT started giving me Pilates reformer classes right in their office, as a certified Pilates instructor they knew just what I needed in terms of safely returning back to exercise. I continued those classes on my own and have never looked back. I truly believe that Pilates has saved my back (and my love of exercise).
For those who aren’t quite sure what Pilates actually is, here’s a brief description. Pilates is a form of low-impact exercise that aims to strengthen muscles while improving postural alignment and flexibility. Pilates moves tend to target the core, although the exercises work the entire body. You can take part in Pilates with equipment (on the reformer like I do) or without equipment simply on a mat. Why was this the exercise that my physical therapists recommended to me post treatment? Well, Pilates strengthens the core muscles and a strong core equals a better back. Researchers believe that stabilizing the core’s lumbar-pelvic (lower-back) region, Pilates alleviates stress on the area and ups mobility. Pilates is also based on stretching and remember how often I was urged to do that!
I began Pilates and was almost immediately hooked. It always made my back and legs feel much better for days (even in between sessions). My arms, legs and butt became leaner and stronger and the workout was PAIN FREE! Because Pilates is also considered a resistance exercise, you really increase your lean body mass which stocks your metabolism while making you leaner AND stronger. After years of experiencing pain while I was exercising, I couldn’t wait for it to be over, I was amazed by how Pilates made me feel even while I was doing it.
If you’re still on the fence about trying Pilates, here are some other researched health benefits of taking Pilates. It has been found that Pilates…..
Improves bone density
Eases back pain
Strengthens core and firms that tough to reach belly fat
Builds cardiovascular endurance
So, are you experiencing back pain? Are your workouts leaving you discouraged? Or, are you just looking to mix up your current workout routine (always a good idea)? If so, I whole-heartedly encourage you to try the workout that has literally changed my life.
If you live in an area of the country where Pilates classes are not easily accessible, or you have a hard time carving time out of your day to get to a gym, I have great news for you. I recently found a FREE, yes, free Pilates workout on YouTube when I was traveling. Traveling makes me crave my Pilates even more and I did not want to miss a session. So, I found Pop Pilates and did it right in my hotel room. Here is the workout that I did but there are a ton of options. I loved the instructor and her virtual class was spot on. I got my daily dose of stretching and core work for free at home.
I’m not sure why but I feel compelled to leave you with a disclaimer….this post is in no way sponsored by any Pilates company, gym, etc. As you know, I love to share. And, I’ve been feeling a little guilty about not letting you all in on the exercise that changed my life sooner! Happy Stretching! Xx Janine