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FYI SOUTH Magazine, Fall 2007




Toning your body with Pilates

By Alice Wu, translated by Belle Cheng

In an age where fast-food chains reign and obesity is fast becoming a disease, a sedentary lifestyle can longer be ignored. However, getting off the couch isn't as difficult as many think. Even five minutes of activity a day is better than zero. Consider the possibilities: running, cycling, swimming, even walking to 7-11 instead of taking the scooter is a form of exercise (seriously, why are you taking your scooter?).

If a lack of funds is preventing you from purchasing a gym membership, a bicycle, or even a pair of shoes, then get creative! One of the trendiest ways to stay in shape these days is to perform the popular muscle-strengthening exercise known as Pilates (pronounced pee-la-tees). All you need is a mat and access to the Internet. Developed by Joseph Pilates, the workout is a more fluid version of yoga. Whereas yoga concentrates on static positions, Pilates focuses on a person's "powerhouse" or abdominal area to lengthen, stretch and balance the body through specific movements. The best way to learn these movements is through instruction, but classes cost money and often schedules don't mesh. So the next best thing is to get online at http://www.easyvigour.net.nz/fitness/h_Free_Pilates_Exercises.htm and start learning the techniques. Everything you need to know about Pilates is on this website.

There are various levels of Pilates, ranging from beginner all the way to superstar. There are easy positions like the "spine stretch forward" and the "roll-up". But take caution: Pilates can be quite challenging and many of the poses require a certain degree of balance and abdominal strength-two aspects of Pilates that take time to perfect. The lower back is particularly vulnerable, as it can be easily strained by the inexperienced.

So, rather than simply watching TV, why not try watching TV while doing Pilates? Easily done in the comfort of one's home, you can set your own schedule and go at your own pace. Very little prep is needed to start the program and absolutely anyone can do it. Pilates is the perfect way to tone, strengthen and stretch the body. The changes are gradual, but innately satisfying when they become noticeable.

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