September 1, 2010
Each of these exercise philosophies consists of low-impact movements that focus on both mind and body for better physical and mental health. And each has health benefits that are supported by scientific research. None require expensive equipment or machinery. Learn about Pilates, tai chi and yoga, and how each form of exercise might benefit you.
Pilates combines physical movement with body awareness to improve posture, balance and core strength (abdominal muscles, back and pelvis). Typical exercises coordinate slow movements with deep breathing techniques.
Pilates is suitable for almost everyone because there's no stress on your joints or wear and tear on your ligaments or cartilage, explains Pilates expert Denise Austin in her Pilates Workout Tips at Prevention.com. Austin's list of benefits includes a more flexible spine, improved balance and coordination, less pain and stiffness and greater calmness. She says these results can be attained with three ten-minute workouts a week.
Scientific research supports Pilates' ability to enhance flexibility, muscular fitness and endurance, and to strengthen abdominal muscles (see the study by Michele Olson, Ph.D., on the American College of Sports Medicine Web site. Research also supports its ability to relieve lower back pain (see the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy.
For more information about Pilates visit fullfitness.net, pilatesinsight.com and pilatesmethodalliance.org.
Tai chi is an ancient form of martial arts that is also practiced today as a graceful form of exercise that builds balance and body awareness. MayoClinic.com describes tai chi as a series of gentle movements and stretching that flows without pause.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that people practice tai chi to improve their physical condition, muscle strength, coordination, balance and flexibility; to ease pain and stiffness; and to improve sleep. Tai chi also promotes inner calm. The gentle, slow movements can be performed by almost anyone.
Scientific research sponsored by the National Institute on Aging documents tai chi's ability to improve balance and body awareness and to reduce falls in older individuals. Tai chi also shows promise as a useful treatment for fibromyalgia, as reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.
For more information about tai chi visit everyday-taichi.com and americantaichi.org.
Yoga exercises combine physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation that harmonize with the yoga philosophy, which promotes the integration of body, mind and soul for a happy, balanced life, and spiritual unification with the supreme.
Yoga movements range from gentle to strenuous, and typically incorporate poses, controlled breathing and deep relaxation or meditation. ABC-of-Yoga.com advises it takes willpower and perseverance to accomplish each pose, but the benefits, which include improved health, flexibility and strength, are worth it.
News from Harvard Health reports that in addition to slowing heart and breathing rates and lowering blood pressure, yoga helps increase heart rate variability, which is an indicator of the body's flexibility in responding to stress. New research adds that practicing yoga can relieve anxiety and depression, as well as lower back pain.
For more information about yoga visit nccam.nih.gov and iyengar-yoga.com.