Would you say you have good balance? Most folks think that being able to
stand on one foot for a bit or staying stable on a wobbly surface is what
constitutes good balance. And if you can do those things, chances are you
have pretty good balance!
But a lesser known measure of good balance is recognizing your ability to
walk without staggering or having to hold onto something. It’s being able to
easily manage stairs, bend over, and/or get out a chair without tripping or
If you’re struggling with some of the items in the second category, you may
be having balance issues. Fortunately, Pilates helps balance.
It Starts With Proprioception
There are three main systems that control your balance.
The first two are vision and your inner ear. If there are issues with these, it
can throw off your ability to balance. These are often addressed with
The third system, proprioception, is a bit different. Simply put,
proprioception is understanding where your body is and how it moves in
space. It’s an awareness of the position of different body parts in relation to
each other without relying on touch or vision.
As you move through life and accumulate different injuries to your
ligaments, tendons, and muscles, it can affect your proprioception. The
information gets scrambled and you’ll find it difficult to maintain balance. If
you haven’t developed good reactions or have weakness in the muscles,
you’re also more likely to teeter.
This is where Pilates’s ability to restore proprioception is key.
So How Does Pilates Help Balance Exactly?
Pilates instructors often hear students talk about how they feel taller or
more connected to their core after a class. It’s also common for students to
talk about using muscles they never knew they had.
It’s well established that Pilates improves posture and works the small
stabilizing muscles responsible for balance. So how does this work? Pilates
does the following:
1. Focuses on a Strong Foundation
While many muscles are incorporated for balance, they aren’t going to be
able to do much if you don’t have stability in your feet. As such, most
Pilates classes will integrate foot strengthening and stretching exercises
into full body movements in order to build a strong foundation. There are
also targeted exercises for the feet.
2. Increases Hip Strength and Range
Hip strength is a major factor for balance. The movements in Pilates focus
on increasing flexibility and building strength in the muscles that surround
the hips. The hip flexors, in particular, are crucial in allowing you to lift your
knees or bend forward from your hips.
In addition, Pilates exercises that strengthen the core and glute muscles
contribute to increased stability around the hip region. This helps to
improve mobility and range of motion in the hip joint.
3. Strengthens the Core
Joseph Pilates was known for likening a strong core to the fountain of
youth. This was mostly because a strong core is essential for mobility. And
if you struggle with mobility, it is likely affecting your balance (and vice
versa). The targeted and full body integrated exercises of Pilates help to
strengthen the core.
4. Corrects Imbalances
In some cases, balance problems can be caused, or at least impacted, by
muscular imbalances . After an injury or as we age, muscles may atrophy
and/or joints can weaken. To compensate for these weaknesses, neighboring muscles will fire up and and do double duty. As a result, they become overdeveloped and muscular imbalances occur.
5. Strengthens and Lengthens Muscles
The Pilates system focuses on both lengthening and strengthening
muscles. This includes in the limbs. Strong and toned legs facilitate better
Regular Pilates practitioners have long lean muscles that are strong but not
bulky. The exercises are a safe and effective way to restore strength while
promoting balanced muscle development. This makes it the ideal system to
integrate into physical therapy.
Where Do You Begin?
If you’d love to try a Pilates class but want to get a little strength under your
belt first, you can do some simple exercises like bridges, sumo squats, or
These are easily done at home. But there is a technique that you want to
maintain throughout all of these movements.
First, ensure that the middle of your hip crease is in line with the middle of
the knee and second toe. Second, keep your weight in the middle of your
foot and your kneecap facing forward. Finally, be sure you’re not gripping
into the muscles and holding your breath. Just allow things to move
When You ARE Ready to Take a Class…
When it’s time to experience firsthand how Pilates helps balance, contact
us to meet with our skilled instructors and physical therapists and schedule
They will show you how the Pilates principles for movement along with
exercises help to improve your functional movement. Even just increasing
proprioception by training your body to move without having to think about
it is going to improve your balance.
That is the magic of Pilates.