After a long day at work or an evening on the couch, you might feel a twinge in your lower back. This is a common problem and can develop into long-term back pain. Thankfully, there's growing evidence that Pilates can help.
Many people already practice Pilates for back pain to improve mobility and flexibility in the spine. This plays a crucial role in undoing some of the damage of sitting at our desks, but how often should you fit in a session to avoid back pain?
Thanks to a new study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, we now know that one hour of practice, twice a week, might be the answer.
The great thing about Pilates is that you don't need lots of equipment to get started, just one of the best yoga mats for a comfortable base and underfoot support during the class.
And if you're new to Pilates and want an accessible way to try out a session, this one-hour full-body class from popular YouTube instructor Move with Nicole is a beginner-friendly place to start.
Watch Move with Nicole's full-body Pilates class
The researchers recruited 50 participants for the study and split them between a non-exercising control and a group that would do two hour-long Pilates sessions a week for 12 weeks.
By the end of the three months, the Pilates group improved abdominal endurance (measured using sit-up and leg lowering tests), had more flexible hamstrings, and increased their upper body endurance compared to the control group.
Although the team didn't find measurable differences in posture, the participants got taller across the 12 weeks. It's a surprising result, especially because it's unlikely the exercisers physically grew over the study period.
Instead, the researchers believe this change in height "indicates that there may have been some structural changes in spinal alignment that the postural analysis was not sophisticated enough to detect."
But flexibility-focused Pilates sessions aren't for everyone. Working out on an exercise bike can ease back pain, although you'll still need to take some time to stretch and develop strength in your lower body.
If you want to target pain before it starts, you can grab a space-saving set of the best adjustable dumbbells for at-home resistance training and take up weight lifting for back pain to reduce your risk of lower back issues in the future.
James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.
In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.
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