Pilates has the potential to help those with multiple sclerosis in many common problem areas: balance, body awareness, stress, spasticity, and strength to name just a few. As a refreshing mind/body workout, it’s a great alternative--or accompaniment--to tai chi and yoga. Physical therapists often recommend Pilates to help rehabilitate injuries since it incorporates low-impact movements in a gentle, graceful manner: “By emphasizing proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment, and complete concentration on smooth, flowing movement, you become acutely aware of how your body feels, where it is in space, and how to control its movement.”
What makes it so popular in the MS community? Pilates focuses on core muscles--muscles in the centre of the body like deep abdominals and muscles around the spine--that are important for overall stability and balance, common problem areas in multiple sclerosis. Pilates also builds strength (without bulk), teaches body awareness (great for those MSers with numbness), promotes good posture, and improves muscle elasticity and joint mobility (stiffness anyone?).
One of the more overlooked benefits of Pilates is that it emphasizes proper breathing and smooth, flowing movements--both natural stress relievers. As you are probably aware, combining stress and multiple sclerosis is to be avoided as much as possible.
Like yoga, there is a good deal of mat work in Pilates; you are often in a reclined or seated position (handy if you are unsteady on your feet). Aside from a few exercises, it tends to not be aerobic--reducing the risk of overheating and fatigue. Using low-impact, partial weight-bearing techniques, with an emphasis on economy of motion, it’s a safe workout for MSers of any age.
Kathi has worked in the fitness industry for the past 20 years, and delivers Level 3 Pilates Matwork Instructor courses. She also teaches group fitness and Pilates classes, as well as one-to-one Pilates clients, many of whom go to Kathi as a result of osteopathic referral.
For the past 13 years Kathi has been training new exercise instructors, and also working as an assessor and verifier for the industry's awarding bodies.