Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is one of the most rewarding types of exercise because it encompasses stretch, strength and improves flexibility in the safest way while avoiding injury.

Pilates started as a way of rehabilitating athletes and dancers but is now used by millions of people across the globe because it is one of the safest forms of exercise.

Forget going for a run, pounding on pavement with the potential risk of getting shin splints, a knee injury or worse, falling and getting an even more severe injury. Pilates is one of the safest exercise systems in existence. The only equipment used is a floor mat. But for more advanced pilates exercise enthusiasts, other equipment can be added to simple routines. Nevertheless, once you begin this solid workout regimen, you will begin to notice healthy improvements in your body.

Regardless of whether you are 20 or 60 years of age, Pilates can work for anyone – male or female, old or young. No matter what condition you're in, the health and fitness benefits are endless. Pilates improves flexibility, core strength and range of motion. It is also known to help alleviate chronic health ailments as well as fight back pain.

But the best part about Pilates is it’s fun!

It’s an exercise that bonds the mind and body allowing them to work together to establish balance. But the biggest benefit is Pilates improves overall body alignment, making it less prone to injury.

Here are some more benefits of Pilates:

• Improves breathing

• Corrects spinal and pelvic alignment through the concentration of slow, flowing, smooth movements with maximum power.

• Builds long, lean muscles that are less prone to injury, while building strength - without the bulk.

• Improves flexibility and range of motion.

• Improves back and abdominal strength.

• Creates balance between muscles - as weak muscles become stronger and the strong muscles also gain more strength never overtraining or undertraining any particular muscle group. This balance makes it easier to enjoy daily activities with less risk of injury. Pilates allows you to retrain your body to move in smoother safer, more efficient patterns of motion, which is essential in optimal performance and overall health.

• There is no pounding or bouncing in Pilates. It is the safest form of exercise. This is why it began as a rehabilitation exercise system for sports athletes and dancers. It is an intense exercise system working all muscle groups but still sustaining and improving overall balance.

If you are looking for a fitness routine that’s safe and easy to do - and that doesn't involve a lot of heavy equipment, Pilates is an excellent choice. But best of all, with the popularity of this system, it can be performed in the comfort of your own home! Many videos and DVD’s are available for rent at your local video store as well as for sale at your local supermarket.

Need the right exercise system? Pilates may be just the right thing for you. Fun, easy and relaxing exercise that strengthens and restores flexibility… Doesn't get much better than this!

Should You Have a Gym Buddy?

Whether you’ve been a gym goer for a while or are just getting started, there are days when we just have no motivation whatsoever and getting out of bed let alone going to the gym is painful. But having someone else there to inspire you and push you to continue can be incredible, and if you’re worried about going to the gym on your own, this may be the ultimate solution for you! Here’s some great reasons why you should have a gym buddy.

Achieve Your Goals

Like we’ve said, finding motivation can be tough, and if you start to fall behind your schedule and routine, your goals can feel a million miles away. By having someone there with you, you are inspired to work as hard as them, but also motivate each other when it feels like it’s all too much. If you’ve got a goal you’re working towards and you’re feeling motivated, you’re more likely to get to where you want to be quicker.

Fitness Becomes Fun

It can feel like a lot of effort to go to the gym, but by having a friend to chat and laugh with, working out will be fun. If you’ve got a friend to hang out with, going to the gym will become enjoyable and you’ll be happy to have it as part of your weekly routine. You and your gym buddy will be able to have a serious workout, with it feeling a little less serious.

Competition is Good

Now, we’re not saying you should compete with your gym buddy but having someone to workout with will push you to try harder. You could set small challenges with each other or time trails to push each other to work harder. Try building your own circuits or seeing who can complete a certain number of reps in the lowest time. Friendly competition is best, but whatever you do, push each other to punch harder, kick higher, and run faster.

Accountability

It can be easy to break promises to ourselves, especially if we're feeling tired or just can't be bothered with the gym, but if we've promised someone else, giving up is a last resort. By having a gym buddy, you become more accountable for your actions, and are more likely to stick to your gym routine if you don't want to let someone else down.

Learn Something New

If you go to the gym on your own, you may get stuck doing the same things every time, worried to start new classes and routines as it’s new and out of your comfort zone. By having a friend with you, you can swap tips and routines, inspiring you to try new things but not feeling alone or awkward whilst doing it. Going to classes for the first time can be daunting but having someone with you can make it feel more natural and fun. Teach your gym buddy your favourite exercises, and they’ll do the same.

These are just a few short reasons explaining why having a friend at the gym can really help you get more work done and feel happy whilst doing it. You may be thinking how you can get a gym buddy, well, you could speak to a member of the staff at the gym and ask if they know of anyone looking for a friend at the gym, or even reach out to your friends and family members and ask if anyone of them wants to go to the gym with you. You may not find someone straight away, but you will find someone you get along with and motivates you to do better.

It’s Good to Try New Things

Want to try something new? Maybe not. It can be difficult to be spontaneous as it’s scary and you’re basically walking into the unknown. But what if the new thing you try is the greatest thing you are ever part of? What if it teaches you something new about yourself? You won’t know if you don’t try, so here are some reasons to try something new…

Overcome Fear

Most people don’t try something new as they’re worried to do something they haven’t tried before. It’s different. It’s strange. You don’t know what to expect. What if I don’t like it? But what if you do? Fear will always hover over you when doing something new, but fear can’t stop you from doing everything. Overcome your fears and soon big things won’t seem as big and scary, and you will be more open to trying new things.

Increase Confidence

Being more spontaneous and trying things you wouldn’t normally do takes confidence. Showing that you’re able to do new things proves to yourself that you have the confidence to keep doing things you might not say yes to. This increase in confidence can help you in your everyday life too!

Learn A New Skill

The new thing you’re interested in may involve learning a new skill. It can seem hard to try something new and possibly have failure as an option, but if you don’t try, you won’t ever know! With persistence and practice, you will gain a new skill or hobby. How great would it be to add something to your CV or tell your friends and family about? Don’t just stick to the skills you know, keep learning and getting better.

Helps You to Break Out of a Rut

By having the same routine every day, it can become boring and difficult to get out of. Trying something new allows you to break out of a rut which you may find fun, refreshing and enjoyable for you. The thing you try, you might even add to your routine to keep it fresh and exciting, rather than just the same as normal. Whether you choose to just go on a walk or try a new class somewhere, new isn’t always as bad as everyone says.

Stimulate Creativity

When you try new things, you allow your brain to think outside of its normal routine which pushes it to be more creative. Putting your brain into new situations forces you to really think, and by training your brain like this without even realising, it will eventually rub off in other areas of your life, allowing you to see everything in a new light. Many creative people say the key to their success is trying new things, allowing them to grow and express themselves in new ways.

We bet trying something new doesn’t seem that bad anymore. Go on, do something you’ve never done before and see how much you enjoy it!

Group Workouts Shown to Improve Mental & Physical Wellbeing

By Carrie Knight for Fit Planet

A new study into the stress-relieving power of group fitness makes world headlines by proving what many have known all along – there is strength in numbers.

As the old proverb says, “necessity is the mother of invention”. When Dr. Dayna Yorks first arrived at medical school in Maine in 2013, she had a big problem. Group fitness classes were nonexistent on the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine campus, and she knew group exercise was necessary for her to maintain physical and mental health. What did this Les Mills instructor do about it?  She not only brought CXWORX™ to campus, she simultaneously studied the effects of the class on medical students.

Now her research, published in the the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association is gaining worldwide attention, including coverage in more than 30 media outlets, for its overall finding that group fitness improves mental and physical wellbeing.

Those who did at least one class a week had a statistically significant decrease in stress, and an improvement in mental, physical, and emotional quality of life.

Yorks has always excelled in sports. She played college softball (pitcher and first baseman) at university, and was chosen as captain in her senior year. When she graduated team sports ended, and Yorks felt something was missing from her life.

“I somewhat begrudgingly tried a BODYPUMP class on the suggestion of my dad. I would have much rather been lifting big weights on the floor! Turns out that I loved it!” she says. “Group fitness filled the void that was missing as I was no longer a part of a team. I started as an enthusiastic participant, then took the leap to become an instructor about 10 years ago.”

Group exercise kept Yorks fit, provided her with social connections, and offered stress relief. “Exercise has always been my outlet, and by the time I started medical school, group fitness in particular was something I needed to feel grounded, whole, and alive,” she explains.

Without a formal group exercise program at medical school, Yorks once again felt that void. “I infrequently taught free-style classes to small groups of friends in an effort to feel like myself. I’ll never forget being in the [medical school gym’s] locker room, and one of my friends said to me, ‘Dayna, you need to figure out how to create an enduring group fitness program that will live on after you leave campus.’ It was her suggestion that inspired me to do just that.”

She did just that and much more. Yorks wanted to provide her fellow students with something lasting that would not only improve their physical fitness but also provide desperately needed stress relief. “Research has shown that incidences of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder are five-fold higher in medical trainees than their age-matched, non-medical counterparts,” she says. “Additionally, many students and physicians suffer from burnout, fatigue, alcoholism, and even suicide.”

The answer for Yorks was obvious. She set her sights on Les Mills. “I realized that if I could get the school to fund the license for a Les Mills format, then I could effectively lay the foundation for an enduring group fitness program. LES MILLS programs have a strong infrastructure – there are multiple Initial Training Modules across the country for new students to become certified, and instructors are provided with music and choreography, which ensures fresh sounds and safe, effective programming based on science. I chose CXWORX because it’s only a half-hour long, requires minimal equipment, and I knew its focus on core and functional training would be relevant for future physicians.”

Yorks also chose CXWORX because of its potential to affect the way these future doctors practice medicine. “The third leading cause for patients to seek care from a primary care physician is low-back pain, and many times, it can be treated with core exercises,” says Yorks. “By affording medical students a class where they could experience core training first hand, it would hopefully carry over into their future practice as physicians.  Research also shows that medical students who engage in physical exercise are more likely to encourage their patients to do so as well.”

It was during a workout at the gym that her anatomy professor suggested she also consider a research project.  “We both agreed that concrete data on the effects of group fitness on medical student wellness would be helpful in procuring continued funding for the future. I worked in research prior to starting medical school so I was familiar with the process.”

CXWORX was a huge hit and was regularly attended by 70 students and staff. “I’ve never taught to so many people in a CXWORX class in my life,” beams Yorks.

The focus of the research was two-fold: “We wanted to see if participation in group exercise, individual exercise, or no exercise would have an effect on the wellbeing of medical students.”  To that end, Yorks and her team hypothesized that:

  1. Participation in regular exercise would yield decreased perceived stress and increased physical, mental, and emotional quality of life.
  2. Participation in group fitness classes would yield greater stress reduction and quality of life improvement than exercising individually.

Bottom line? They were right!

“Essentially, we found that those who participated in at least one CXWORX class a week had a statistically significant decrease in stress, and an improvement in mental, physical, and emotional quality of life. Those who exercised individually showed improvement in mental quality of life, but no other significant changes were noted. This suggests that participation in group fitness classes could be a solution to improving the wellbeing of medical students.”

Specifically, the data showed the CXWORX group experienced:

  • 6 percent increase in mental Quality of Life (QOL)
  • 8 percent increase in physical QOL
  • 26 percent increase in emotional QOL
  • 2 percent decrease in perceived stress

“The individual exercise group had an 11 percent increase in mental QOL, but otherwise, no other statistically significant changes were observed,” Yorks explains.

Without discounting the well-demonstrated benefits of working out individually, the study suggests the “group effect” does have a particular significance: “The possibility that the social aspects of group exercise improved QOL and decreased stress also cannot be discounted. The social component of group exercise is therapeutic. Furthermore, group exercise classes often use up-tempo music and choreography to make the class more fun and engaging. Bringing together medical students who are all going through similar stresses to work out and have fun may transcend the experience of working out on their own.”

She has been both overwhelmed and thrilled by the media attention her project has attracted. “It certainly was not our intention to take the media by storm, nor were we expecting it,” she says. “Having the study disseminated on such a large scale is also a gift. Our study advocates for a shift in medical education and training to address student and physician wellness, in particular through group fitness. The more people who can become aware of the need for this change and the power of group exercise, the better!”

Today, Yorks is completing residency training to specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation. “I hope to do additional research in the future, potentially a similar project but for medical residents, which is arguably an even more stressful time in a physician’s career.”

While Yorks’ schedule may seem daunting, she says it’s well worth it. “It was towards the end of my medical education that I became a part of the Les Mills US Trainer team. So yes, juggling all of these roles is challenging! But I can’t imagine my life without all of them. I do the best I can, lead with my heart, and realize it’s okay to be ‘hashtag perfectnever’.”

TAKE FIVE

  • Medical students suffer above average stress-related depression and anxiety – making them an ideal study group
  • The study used Les Mills’ CXWORX classes attended by 70 students and staff
  • Those who attended at least one class per week showed lower stress levels
  • Compared to individual exercisers, those in the group class scored higher for stress-reduction and physical, mental and emotional quality of life
  • It was hypothesized that the social component of group exercise in itself is therapeutic.

Dayna Yorks is a medical doctor and researcher who, as a member of the Les Mills US trainer team, helps inspire and upskill a growing tribe of group fitness instructors.

If you want more tried, tested and true news from the leading edge of health and fitness sign up to get Fit Planet insights and advice straight to your inbox.

Follow the freshest thinking @fitplanetmag.

This piece originally appeared on lesmills.com.

BODYATTACK: Designed by Athletes For Athletic Results

By Finlay Macdonald for Fit Planet

Criticized early on for breaking with orthodox exercise theory, the workout that became BODYATTACK went on to prove its creators right and help revolutionize the world of group fitness.

Looking out across a quiet inner-city Auckland park, Phillip Mills remembers when it was the premier track and field venue in New Zealand’s biggest city.

The Mills family home was nearby, and his four-time Olympian father Les Mills was national track and field coach during the park’s heyday. “I remember watching Peter Snell and Kip Keino race over the mile on this track,” Phillip says. “This was the hub of track and field, and this was our lives, at least until I went off to university.”

It’s remarkable to think that this small suburban park, now home to family picnickers and dog-walkers, once hosted legendary runners such as three-time New Zealand gold medallist Snell and two-time Kenyan Olympic gold medallist Keino.

Almost as remarkable is that the skills practiced here would help form the beginnings of a global fitness trend.

As a 400 meter hurdler, Phillip Mills ran on the same park himself, learning and practicing fundamental athletic training principles to build speed, strength and fitness. Taking up a track scholarship at UCLA in California in the 1970s he encountered the beginnings of the aerobics group fitness revolution.

When the two were combined – group workouts based on athletic techniques – the public demand was immediate. “In the family gym we had then, we turned it into a boutique group fitness studio, and it was a revolution,” says Mills. “There were people lined up down the street for 50 meters waiting to get in.”

“We knew very well from decades of sports training that this is what got great results. And we were determined to take that into the gym.” Phillip Mills

One of the early classes taught at the original Les Mills gym was an athletic-based aerobic workout, based on the kinds of exercises used back at the athletics track – callisthenics, running, sprints, agility, and what would now be known as interval training.

As the program was refined and developed it evolved into what it is known as now: BODYATTACK™. Not that it was a smooth process.

“In those early days of the gym industry,” says Mills, “this was completely opposed by the establishment. You had people saying, ‘no that’s terrible, you have to do steady-state basic aerobic training, you have to keep it very gentle.’  They argued that would get you better results. But we knew very well from decades of sports training that interval training was what got people great results. And we were determined to take that into the gym.”

In a sense, the traditional gym establishment – and the science of fitness – had to wait years to catch up with the idea of working out at a high base intensity, adding periodic spikes of even higher intensity.

As Les Mills Head of Research Bryce Hastings explains, “There’s a lot of science now around those spikes of intensity being really effective at transforming fitness and body composition. I think BODYATTACK was one of the first programs to really start to use that as an approach. And I think that was because it was designed by athletes, people who really liked to train. They knew how they’d want to train, and they knew what kind of results they were after, and they just designed the program that way … They transformed the approach to fitness, and now we know they were really onto something. And now everyone is doing it!”

While it might have been intuitive to begin with, these days the research and knowledge around a “cardio peak training” workout such as BODYATTACK is substantial. There is plenty of evidence that it gets results. Says Hastings, “You’ve got your base of intensity, which is going to improve your VO2, give you stamina and endurance. But when you’ve got these little spikes of intensity on top of that – your body goes into overdrive, because the spikes take you to an inefficient training zone. When you do that, the body scrambles to try and get better at that. And then you’ve also got the strength elements – push-ups, abdominal training and squats – so it’s really a very well-rounded athletic training program.”

But let’s not get lost in the science. The other element of BODYATTACK that everyone acknowledges is a major part of its success is the group effect – the added motivation and enjoyment that comes from working out with others.

“I think the first thing BODYATTACK achieved was the use of music to bring people together to exercise,” says Hastings. “It was one of the first programs to create this massive tribal approach to exercise, where people really got into it, and got the group effect from that type of program.”

You might not have to queue around the block any more, but 100 releases into its long life, BODYATTACK is living proof that age doesn’t have to slow you down.

Find a BODYATTACK class or work out On Demand here.

If you want more tried, tested and true news from the leading edge of health and fitness sign up to get Fit Planet insights and advice straight to your inbox.

This piece originally appeared on lesmills.com.

Women Squatting in Tabata Fitness Class

Tabata Blast is here!

Fantastic news, Tabata Blast is a brand-new class coming to Gym & Tonic in September!

What is Tabata?

Tabata Blast

Tabata is a fitness programme named after Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata who discovered the training. It is a popular form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and consists of exercising in short bursts of 20 seconds, then resting for 10 seconds, before starting again.

What are the benefits of Tabata?

Research by Dr Tabata shows that athletes who performed the high intensity training increased their aerobic and anaerobic system capacities, which then allows you to increase your ability to train at a higher intensity. According to Dr Tabata a four-minute Tabata session is equal to an hour of jogging, and two hours of walking. It is also believed to burn fat, with 150 calories being burnt for up to 12 hours after exercising.

Is Tabata for me?

Tabata is suitable for anyone, it doesn’t matter what your fitness level is. In Tabata Blast we will work together to build your fitness and adapt each exercise to your fitness level.

How do I get involved?

Our Tabata Blast class starts on Tuesday 5th September at 6.45pm, running weekly with our instructor Slav. You can try out Tabata Blast by giving us a call on 01785 2467411 and booking in your FREE first session and finding out the benefits for yourself!

Read more about Tabata:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8897392
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/mar/25/tabata-harder-faster-fitter-quicker
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/diet/10281079/Tabata-is-this-workout-worth-the-pain.html