The battle with the bulge continues. Fitness remains elusive to so many trying to find what really works for them. Among the keep fit choices, there's a form of exercise, originating in the early part of the 20th Century (1920s), pilates that is finding favour in the city. Fitinn Wellness, a newly opened fitness centre at Thoppumpady has an ongoing pilates class but with very few takers. “Many here don't know about this slow but sure way of strengthening muscles, it is not common,” says Shiny Justin, a certified trainer and owner.

Conditioning exercise

Rini Vibin of Fitness Forever on Seaport-Airport road, Kakkanad is a pilate coach. Among her students are actors Kavya Madhavan, Remya Nambeesan and Mitra Kurian. She says, “Pilates has been popular in the metros but here it is just gaining ground.” Bindu Prakash, one of the earliest fitness experts from the city and proprietor of B-Fit in Panampilly Nagar,has been doing pilates as a combination exercise in her classes. She says, “Pilates is a conditioning exercise that aims to work on the core muscles thus strengthening the whole body itself.” The core that pilates works at is the muscles of the diaphragm, abs, back and pelvic muscles.

Pilates instructors claim it to be the best work out for the central part of the body. Body Contrology is what inventor Joseph Pilates, a German called the exercise, which uses a mind- body-spirit control action. He was impressed by the prowess of Greek gymnasium workouts of yore, and set to invent a total of 34 exercises. In its contemporary version, pilates has built upon the original and is practised as a combination along with aerobics, dance and yoga . A pilate coach has to clear three test modules. After completing the first the trainer has to teach for eight months before he/she can appear for the next module and finally the Master Pilate Course or the advanced version can be done after 14 months of teaching.

Shiny says that a regular workout of the exercise, as claimed by the inventor, will give a person a “whole new body” in 30 sessions but she adds that pilates is tough and slow, it requires patience along with dedication.

A fitness specialist in the city says that pilates can best be compared to yoga minus the spirituality

So what exactly are the exercises in pilates?

Bindu says that there are a range of exercises beginning with exercises on the mat. Deep breathing prepares one. She takes her group of students through a graphic talk of deep breathing and readies them for the tougher part to follow.

A cushiony mat is a basic requirement. As one progresses there are different props, like core board, resistance tubing and resistance ball, rebounder, wunda chair etc. that can be used to facilitate the exercise, which is mainly of balancing.

Strong insides

Bindu clarifies that this is not a cardio program but involves a lot of stretching, balancing and flexibility. It improves posture without adding body bulk. It is all about getting ones, “inside strong”. In conclusion experts say that gym workouts like weight training work at the ‘superficial' muscles and add bulk, where as pilates has the opposite effect. They largely feel that a combination of weight training and pilates give excellent results.

Toning of muscles

It is about spinal stability and toning of muscles to support the body and thus reach a new balanced alignment, say the instructors. But the best part of pilates is that persons of any age can do this and even the obese.

Elucidating the toughness of the exercise Rini says that a moderately fit person, who can possibly do about 16 to 20 ab crunches may not be able to do even three repetitions of a pilate exercise and though there are immediate results, in five to six sessions, she recommends it only thrice a week. It is one of the best forms of ‘maintenance' exercise and for sports conditioning, but if one is looking for a drastic weight loss mechanism, then pilates is the most suitable intermediary.

Keywords: Pilatesdieting