P ilates enthusiasts might have you thinking it is all sunshine and rainbows, but the truth of the matter is that with any sort of physical activity, there are potential drawbacks to consider. Sure, there is a load of health benefits you get to enjoy with this practice, but there are risks involved as well.
Whether you are one of the people who are not allowed to practice it because of medical conditions or you aren’t aware of the correct manner to proceed with the exercises and end up doing more harm than good, there are circumstances in which Pilates can indeed be harmful. This is the topic we will cover in this article, and we recommend that you don’t start your journey without considering these disadvantages and situations first as your well-being is at stake, after all.
Who Is Pilates Recommended For?
At its basis, this workout, whether we are talking about apparatus-style routines that you perform using the Pilates reformer or the mat-style routine where you sit on a special mat and use the weight of your body rather than that of weights, caters to people regardless of their age, level of ability, and physical condition.
Among its multiple benefits are included posture improvement, muscle toning, balance increase, and joint mobility, so you can see how everyone can benefit from it more or less. However, there are circumstances in which this practice is not safe to take up, and if you have any doubt or health concern, you should first pursue advice from a healthcare professional before you start the routine.
When to Ask the Physician First
Are you pregnant?
While a lot of pregnant women do Pilates actively during all trimesters as the workout focuses on the core and can alleviate back pain, ultimately giving a helping hand in labor, this does not mean that you can take it up without consulting the doctor first. There might be certain complications in your pregnancy that are incompatible with this practice, so better not risk your health and that of your baby and first talk to a specialist.
Are you over 40 years old?
With age, mobility decreases, balance starts to get out of tune, and so on. This doesn’t mean that you are incapable of physical activity, just that time has taken a toll on your body and you must pay careful attention to the type of exercises you undergo to not worsen your condition. A medical check-up is indicated before you start sessions as you might have specific health issues that don’t allow you to perform the movements in normal Pilates routines.
Have you had any surgical intervention recently?
Regardless of the sport or activity you want to take up, make sure to consult a doctor before you start the practice if you have had recent surgery. Otherwise, you might be confronted with severe complications and end up on the operating table once more.
Is your weight above the healthy limit?
Being overweight or obese makes it all the more difficult to perform workouts as your body is out of shape and it has too much weight to carry around. Mat Pilates has you using the weight of your body in the routines, and in case you weigh considerably more than you should for your age, gender, and height, you will put too much strain on your bones and joints. Talk to a physician and see if Pilates is suited for your situation, if there are specific exercises that you should avoid, or if there is another workout that is better suited for you.
Do you suffer from medical conditions?
Regardless if you suffer from cardiovascular disease or any other medical condition, check to see if the doctor has any recommendations regarding how you should perform the exercise routines, if the specialist allows you to follow through, to begin with. Otherwise, you risk complications and can easily worsen your health.
Is Pilates Bad for Back Problems?
As Pilates enhances core strength, muscular force, elasticity, and posture, by definition, it should help you get rid of back pain. Pilates is similar to yoga up to a point, and both practices have been recognized by specialists as being effective solutions for back pain relief. However, sitting in improper positions when you perform the routines, not respecting the pace your body feels most comfortable with, and pushing your limits to the extremes can easily end up amplifying your pain and weakening the back.
What Are the Drawbacks of Pilates?
If you ask anyone who has been practicing Pilates for a few years, they will likely only praise this workout. It does help you improve various aspects of your health, putting a lot of accent on core strength, concentration, and flexibility, but this does not mean that it is a perfect practice, far from it. Want to know what the downsides of Pilates are? Here is a list of all the disadvantages this workout has:
- It does not count as cardio: Is your exercise goal to lose weight? Then Pilates is not the route you should take as it qualifies as an anaerobic exercise, which means that by default it is not intended for weight loss. It does help build muscle mass up to a point and strengthens your body, but this is not a cardio workout, so it won’t do wonders when it comes to what the scale shows. If you want to lose weight, better opt for running or swimming.
- It does not count as strength training: It does strengthen the body and helps you put on some muscle mass, but it does not qualify or come near the results of weight lifting and bodybuilding. However, a lot of gym enthusiasts use Pilates as a complementary routine for their normal strength workouts to diversify their program and help increase mobility and other areas on which their regular workout does not focus. For short, if toning and shaping are what you want, Pilates delivers. If you want to get bigger and stronger, without weight lifting you won’t see notable results.
- When done incorrectly, injury can occur: With any type of low-impact exercise, injuries are uncommon, but not unheard of. In Pilates, you can get injured if you do not take up a correct posture, focus on your movements, and go slow and steady. Bear in mind that the key element of this practice is to execute slow movements as this is the most common mistake newbies make, rushing their routines.
- Classes are expensive: The costs of taking classes are high, which has made it quite an exclusive workout. While it caters to people of all ages and physical conditions, the same cannot be said about financial possibilities. This is the reason why more and more people prefer to get equipment for Pilates at home as in the long run, they save more money.
- You need time to recover: The day after your workout, it is common to feel exercise pain. Give your body some time to recover, two days when you are just starting, and one day when you become better accustomed to the routine. For those who want to exercise daily, Pilates might not be the right solution, although there are people who reach a level high enough to take breaks only bi-weekly.
- It takes a lot of time to see results: When you have just begun any sort of physical activity, it can get frustrating to not see the results you expect as quickly as possible. With Pilates, it takes time to see how the exercises impact muscle increase and toning, so you have to remember that patience is key. You will get there, just not as fast as you do with strength training, for example. However, the outcome is impressive and you benefit from more than you could ever ask for health-wise, so it is worth the wait.
What About the Benefits of This Practice?
Pilates is practiced by people all around the world since its inception a century ago, so it is more than clear that while there are downsides and potential risks under specific circumstances involved with it, the benefits outweigh them. As with any physical activity, if you are careful and learn the ropes, you can eliminate the potential for harm and only reap the good. Here are some of the benefits you enjoy once you turn to this routine:
- Better blood flow;
- Increased flexibility;
- Better posture;
- Improved balance;
- Stress relief;
- Better sleep;
- Rehabilitation aid;
- Better concentration;
- Greater core strength.
Bottom Line – Is Pilates Safe to Practice?
Seeing how it is a low-impact physical activity, injuries are quite unusual with Pilates, but not impossible. If you haven’t had any experience with it before, chances are that without proper guidance, you might harm your back or have other unwanted repercussions to worry about. If you are just starting and you take courses, ask the instructor to pay extra attention to you and make sure that you sit in the right positions, and follow through properly with the exercises.
In case you got your hands on a Pilates reformer and want to take up the routine on your own, at home, then invest in some instructional DVDs or look up videos online to use as guidance. If you do it on your own and start to feel back pain, revise all of the material and try to pinpoint what you are doing wrong as something has happened that shouldn’t have.
To answer the main question here, yes, Pilates is safe to practice, safer than most physical activities due to its low-impact nature. But you do have to be careful when you do your routines as repercussions, while uncommon, can appear.