Can Pilates improve your Mental Health?

At Heartcore, we’ve long known that Pilates is much more than a workout, but we wanted to find out why Pilates is so good for you, and your mental health. Here’s what we found.

2020 was a bit intense, wasn’t it? For many of us, the lifestyle changes we had to make took a serious toll on our physical and mental health. But one thing we noticed is that our guests, the familiar faces who unrolled their mats with us, even if just once or twice a week, were not only relying on our Heartcore Pilates classes to help them stay physically healthy, but to help them maintain positive mental health and wellness.

Is pilates good for anxiety?

As it turns out, feeling the burn is good for more than just your muscles. Next time you’re on the mat, dripping with sweat, and pushing yourself to what feels like the limit, remember this: the deeper the muscle activation, the stronger your nervous system. All movement causes our brain to send impulses to our nervous system down our spinal cord. In Pilates, especially in our Dynamic Heartcore Pilates classes, we engage muscles that regular movement, and even regular weight and cardio training exercises, don’t engage. That means we’re building new and stronger connections between our mind and our muscles alongside a more powerful nervous system too. This encourages the release and more seamless flow of stress and anxiety-fighting endorphins – not just on the mat, but long after you’ve completed your workout. 

Can Pilates relieve tension?

The world can feel pretty hectic sometimes (yes, we’re looking at you 2020) and it’s no surprise that most of us are carrying around some physical and emotional tension. When we encounter a stressful situation, our bodies release a wave of hormones that are designed to protect us – essentially priming us to run or fight our way out of danger. But today, most things that stress us out don’t require a physical response, which means our bodies aren’t burning off those hormones. They build-up. Through stretching, conditioning and focused movement, Pilates allows us to metabolise those hormones. A good Pilates flow lets us recalibrate and rebalance our emotions and get the positive energy and endorphins flowing back through our bodies. We find a Pilates Flow class is a great way to shed any unhelpful tension. 

A woman practising pilates and breathing deeply

Can pilates focus the mind?

A lot of us do Pilates for focus, and focused breathing is at the core of Pilates. In fact, it was one of Joseph Pilates 6 Principles of Pilates when he was first developing the technique. Every movement in Pilates requires a specific kind of breathing pattern which improves blood flow to the muscles and makes the exercise more effective. This means that when you’re on the mat or Coreformer, you have to focus on your breath. And when you’re focused on your breath, you can’t focus on that work assignment, that bad date, or your never-ending to-do list. Pilates forces you to push those things out of your mind, to inhabit your body fully, and reconnect with yourself. 

A recent study published in psychology today explored the connection between breathing and peace of mind and found that, through controlled breath alone, we can switch our emotional states. At Heartcore, we’re lucky enough to see this first-hand every day. Our amazing teachers guide our guests through each movement, and each breath, so that everyone who enters one of our studios, or takes one of our online classes, leaves feeling better than they did when stepped onto the mat. 

Does Pilates make you happier?

We can’t pretend that Pilates is the only exercise that causes your body to release endorphins. Most physical activity does. But it’s important to find an exercise that you love and that feels right for you. Heartcore Pilates is for everyone, no matter how you’re feeling. All we ask is that you come to the mat ready to move. For us, Pilates is about moving your body, fuelling your mind, and filling your heart. We’re a real community. We come together to get an endorphin rush, to shed the stresses and tensions of the day, and to build human connection. Pilates allows us to push past our limits, to view ourselves in new ways, realise our power, and become more confident, happier people. Our guests really do step off of the mat feeling lighter, stronger and two inches taller.

Maintaining positive mental health isn’t always easy and Pilates isn’t a fix-all. If you’re really struggling, we advise you to speak to a medical professional and seek expert advice. But we do believe that Pilates has the power to change and lift your mood. If you haven’t already, why not visit one of our studios or try one of our Livestream classes for yourself? It could be the start of something life-changing.