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The Secret to Weight Loss

By Kerrie Lee Brown as published in Fitness Rx 2010

Why Adding Pilates to Your Workout Routine Can Help You Reach Your Weight-Loss Goal

There are many reasons why people work out – to reduce stress, increase energy, rehabilitate an injury, improve sports performance, and quite often to lose weight. But no matter what your reason to venture into the gym or to your local mind-body studio, with the summer months upon us and training programs in full swing, people are always looking for alternative ways to reach their workout goals. Whether you’re looking to lose those last five pounds, fit in a bikini, or wear your favorite skinny jeans – it’s important to find the right motivation so that you can get the most out of your routine to maintain a healthful lifestyle.

It’s no secret that more and more people are turning to mind-body fitness to expand their exercise options.  With over 10 million people participating in Pilates in North America alone, this unique form of exercise is making its mark in the fitness industry and people of all ages are reaping the benefits.  But with the pressures to stay thin at an all-time high in our society – and the old school thought that Pilates is associated with rehabilitation and flexibility still looming – many people still don’t know what Pilates can do for the body; inside and out.

Pilates and Weight Loss
Pilates can be a positive addition to your overall weight-loss program.  STOTT PILATES exercise in particular is a musculo-skeletal conditioning program.  It’s ideal in combination with some kind of cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, aerobics, aqua fitness, etc.), and a great complement to your weight-training program.  However, eating right, drinking plenty of water and working out regularly is the key to shedding unwanted pounds.

Weight loss occurs when the number of calories consumed is less than the number of calories expended.  The most successful and healthy way to achieve weight loss is an exercise plan that includes an aerobic component coupled with a strength-training component, such as STOTT PILATES exercise, and following a balanced diet.  Combining Pilates with aerobic exercise also offers additional benefits – greater mind-body connection, improved posture, flexibility and functionality.

Aerobic exercise is important to aid in weight loss, but to lose and keep the weight off, you need to increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR).  Your metabolic rate is the speed at which your body burns calories when it is resting.  The more muscle tone you have, the faster you will burn calories – as muscle burns more than fat.  A Walking Pilates program is also a great way to burn calories and a smart way to add cardio to you everyday routine.

The Professionals’ Choice
STOTT PILATES not only focuses on core strength but overall muscular strengthening.  Major focus is placed on increasing body awareness in order to ensure the correct muscles are being worked for the particular exercise or movement.  The muscles are trained from the inside out.

“The STOTT PILATES method of exercise helps fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike build muscle, increase strength, and prevent injury – all of which help maximize athletic performance and physical improvement overall,” explains President and CEO of STOTT PILATES, Lindsay G. Merrithew.  “The goal with STOTT PILATES exercise is to strengthen the postural muscles while achieving optimal functional fitness,” he added.

Whether you are a professional athlete, a new mom, or someone who just wants to walk without pain, it is important that the smaller (local stabilizing) muscles are strong.  As these inner muscles become more efficient, exercise programs working the larger muscle groups are designed to build a balanced muscular structure.  Hence, you have the development of long, lean muscles aiding in your weight-loss program.  By adding Pilates to your regular routine, you’ll start to notice losing inches, particularly in the abdominal area, as there is a major emphasis on abdominal strength.

Benefits of Pilates
Unlike other strength-training regimens that focus more specifically on muscle mass, Pilates focuses on rebalancing your muscles around the joints, and improving your alignment and flexibility.  Pilates also focuses on proper breathing, balance and sport-specific range of motion.

Over the past two decades, the original form of Pilates had been refined to meet the demands of today’s fitness-conscious population.  When all muscular systems work in a timely and coordinated fashion, participants can achieve large gains in strength, skill, coordination and biomechanical efficiency.

STOTT PILATES exercise improves core strength and balances the muscles around the joints, improving the way your body functions, look and feels.  The Five Basic Principles focus on breathing, pelvic placement, rib cage placement, scapular movement, and head and cervical spine placement.  

“Pilates assists in rehabilitation after injury and creates balance throughout the entire body,” says Moira Merrithew, Executive Director of Education for STOTT PILATES.  “As a result, you can withstand rigorous training regimens and ultimately improve your strength and endurance, and ultimately prevent or recover from injury.  This leads to improved performance in anything you set out to do.  Pilates is a great addition to any weight-loss routine,” she said.

As an integral part of your weight-loss program, Pilates is a key component to strength conditioning because it focuses on the deeper muscle groups, or ‘local’ stabilizers. This is important when controlling joint movement and in sustaining the stability of the joints that can often be damaged through repetitive and high-demand training.

Variety Is the Spice of Life
Exercisers of all ages can incorporate Pilates into their regular daily activities and enjoy every minute of the workout.  Pilates is a fun form of exercise that can be done with props for added variety using non-repetitive movements.  Props such as the Mini Stability Ball or Foam Roller help keep this form of exercise interesting.  By adding small props to your workout, you’ll see improved results – from how strong your body feels, to your renewed sense of focus, and your ability to exert more energy overall at work and play.

Well-trained, certified instructors are also able to tailor a program to any fitness level or age range.  The nature of the exercises and the equipment used keeps stress off the joints, while strengthening the muscles.  Pilates not only balances strength with flexibility, but it helps to train or retrain the neuro-muscular system (brain messages to the muscles) to correct or strengthen muscular-firing patterns.

For regular exercisers, there is usually a tendency to over-train one set of muscles over the other, depending on the sport.  In this case, Pilates programming can be developed to help rebalanced the way the muscles are firing (contracting, working) – making the exerciser more efficient at what they do and preventing injury.

Reaching Your Weight-Loss Goals
There are many ways that doing Pilates supports weight loss and a trimmer appearance.  For instance, Pilates helps improve posture by creating a leaner look and emphasizing both length and good alignment.

Pilates also helps sustain energy levels throughout your day and is a form of exercise that is often attributed to creating long, lean, fit bodies.  However, Pilates is not considered aerobic exercise.  Therefore, in order to reap the benefits of this form of fitness for a trimmer physique, it is important that you combine Pilates with cardiovascular exercise to maximize your weight-loss endeavor.

And last, but certainly not least, Pilates also promotes self-esteem and heightened lifestyle consciousness.  Both are associated with weight loss and overall well-being.  People feel invigorated and more alive, which contributes to the entire package of activities geared toward your weight-loss rituals.

Sample Exercise to Add to Your Routine:
Single-Leg Stretch with Flex-Band Resistance Band

Starting position: Lie on your back on a mat, and hold both ends of the band.  Bend one knee and place band around one foot, extend the other leg into the air on a diagonal.  Extend arms towards ceiling, just wider than your shoulders, feeling the tension of the band.  Elbows slightly bent.

Instructions:

  • Breathe in: slightly drop your chin
  • Breathe out: contract your abdominal muscles and flex your upper torso
  • Breathe in: stay
  • Breathe out: extend the leg in the band on the diagonal as the other leg bends in
  • Breathe in: switch legs
    Repeat 5 times
  • Breathe in: bend both legs in
  • Breathe out: release torso down to mat
Repeat everything with Flex-Band on the other foot 5 times.

*This exercise is an overall fat-blaster, working not only the core, but also the upper and lower body while using resistance.

Pilates for Weight Loss DVDs
“The Secret to Weight Loss Vol. 1& 2” combines a cardio segment and a STOTT PILATES segment.  The Pilates component involves strength training.  If you are a beginner, start out slowly and monitor your heart rate and perceived rate of exertion.  You should walk at 40-50 percent of your maximum heart rate to begin.  You can progress to our “Walk On” series, which offers a cardio workout that complements each of our resistance equipment DVDs (i.e., Flex-Band, Fitness Circle or Toning Ball) or other strength-training programs.

When doing the cardiovascular component, employ the “Talk Test Method” to ensure you’re not working above your fitness capacity.  This means that you should be able to talk during your workout without a great deal of strain.  Breathe comfortably and rhythmically throughout your workout to ensure you’re working at a safe and comfortable level.

Also available is the STOTT PILATES “Secret to Weight Loss Power Pack” that includes “The Secret to Weight Loss, Vol. 1 & 2” DVDs, a water bottle, a six-week food plan and nutritional booklet, and a Bonus Easy Start Poster.