The Benefits of Pilates for Women’s Health

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  • June 23, 2024

Lesley Logan explains the incredible benefits Pilates offers women, from core strength and flexibility to enhanced mental well-being, guiding you to a healthier, more empowered life.

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7 Health Benefits of Pilates for Women

There’s so many different fitness regimens out there. Should you do Hiit, CrossFit, Weightlifting, Yoga, Bar, Spin, or Pilates? Today we’re gonna talk about why Pilates is amazing for women’s health no matter what age you are, or where you are in your health and fitness journey.

Hi, I’m Lesley Logan, co-founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com™. I’ve been teaching Pilates since 2008 and I’ve been doing Pilates since 2005. And let me tell you, when I first went to a Pilates class, I told my friend, “This is not going to work for me, it’s not a workout regimen that’s actually going to get me any benefits. It’s an infomercial workout”. So I totally was in disbelief that Pilates could do anything for my body. And boy was I wrong. Pilates actually changed my mind body connection, it affected my life in massive ways. And as I get older Pilates has been able to support my fitness and wellness journey in ways that I know it will support yours.

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Overview of Pilates

Before we get into it, I want to talk about how Pilates even came to be. So Pilates was brought to the US in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates. And when he brought Pilates into the US, you should know that at the time, most women were not working out, it was actually seen as a really odd thing. In fact, it was even discouraged for women to work out. If you remember, not too distant past, the first woman who ran the Boston Marathon and people were chasing her down to get her out of there. They really thought that if women worked out it would affect our reproductive systems. So when Joseph Pilates came here, he had created it for men. However, a lot of dancers decided to take Pilates session with him, they felt like he could fix them. And so as these dancers started to come work out with him, more and more people started work out with him, including women. And what is so amazing is after his passing, Pilates continued to grow. And many women were taking Pilates because they felt like it wouldn’t make them bulky. Now, that’s a whole other science story and study about how women are not going to get bulky. However, because of those dancers, because of what Joseph Pilates did for them many women took up Pilates ahead of men, and what Pilates can do for your body is really incredible. We’ll get into those details in a moment. But if you’re wondering what Pilates is specifically, we have an amazing video that you can watch where I go into all the details of what Pilates is. Is Pilates for women only? No, it’s for everyone, but it has certainly found a strong following among women due to its unique benefits.

Improved Core Strength and Stability

So first, let’s talk about how Pilates will help you with your core strength. And specifically for us women who our bodies can do lots of things, some of us will go through childbearing journeys, and some of us will not. However, what’s really important is all of us need to have incredible posture. So that reduces back pain, hip pain, sciatica pain. So what you want to know about Pilates is that it’s not just about those abs that you see, it’s actually about the muscles around the entire spine. So yes, your core muscles that you’ve seen on the covers of magazines, but more importantly, the muscles that we also don’t see your Multifidus is one of them, your Transverse abdominus, the muscles around your back, which allows you to stand up taller. And also what we know about standing up taller is we actually feel more confident when we can stand taller, our shoulders are on our back, our head is over our shoulders. It’s all really amazing stuff not just for the mind and body confidence, but also for the health of your body. Having poor posture can pull your head forward causing more neck pain, it can also cause pelvic floor issues, the more forward your head is, the more you’re actually pulling the weight on your pelvic floor, causing pelvic floor issues. So allowing for this amazing core strength can actually support your pelvic floor, have a balanced healthy one, and also reduce any low back or hip pain. So I know you think “The hips? but my core”, actually the more balanced your core is the more stretch and strength you have in your lower back and support for it, it’s easier to sustain on your own two feet and reduce any imbalances in those hips.

Core-strengthening Pilates Exercises

Here’s a few exercises that you can do to strengthen your core. First of all, I should just say every Pilates exercise will do this, not just these ones. But these are my favorite ones because not only do they really target the core, but they also work the full body. So I would say the Double Leg Stretch on the Mat is going to be excellent for challenging your center, but also allowing you to see how long you can get while you’re doing it. You can do about 5 to 10 reps of that. The next one I would want you to do is your Swan Prep. This is great for anyone at any level, you’re gonna work your abdominals against gravity, you’re also going to strengthen those back muscles. And then I would love to see you do a Push Up. I know ladies, we hate them. But Pilates Push Ups are super fun and you can put your knees down if you want to, or you could hold plank, but those three exercises if you were doing those daily, you would have a supported core, really great space in your lower back and you’d work your full body out as well. One key benefit of Pilates for a woman is its ability to enhance core strength and stability without adding bulk.

health benefits of pilates online pilates classes

Enhanced Flexibility and Range of Motion

Alright, let’s talk about flexibility for us ladies. So here’s the deal, some of us are actually hypermobile in our joints but not necessarily in our muscles. And so how Pilates can be really beneficial to you is that it’s going to tighten what’s loose but it’s also going to loose in and what’s tight. How it does that is in every exercise it activates a muscle before it stretches it, so Single Straight Leg Stretch is one of my favorites for this because when you push the leg into the hand and you pull on the leg with your arms, you actually are activating the hamstring and stretching it at the same time. So it’s really amazing for you to reduce some of the lower back pain you might have because of tight muscles, or reducing the neck pain you might have because of tight shoulders. In fact, tight shoulders can be really risky. It’s easy if you have a tight shoulder to also tear something or pull something in the shoulder, when you use your arm to reach for your gym bag or for your computer bag. That’s a very heavy item on a distal arm. And then if you’ve got a tight shoulder, it’s not supported from the strength. And so when you are doing Pilates, you will also open up a lot of the areas of your body that are tight, while actually teaching your body how to support those too loose of areas, those joints like elbows, knees, shoulders.

Flexibility-focused Pilates Exercises

So I already mentioned Single Straight Leg Stretch is one of my favorites for helping increase flexibility. Single Leg Circles is going to be one of my other favorites. If you have a hip click, I talk a lot with our OPC members on how to actually reduce hip clicking. Hip clicking is actually just a sign that you haven’t turned on the muscles of your hip into an exercise, you can actually use a Theraband to do this. However, when you do Single Leg Circles, you’re really opening up the circumduction of your hip while strengthening the hip muscles at the same time. So you get to stretch and strengthen again, that’s my favorite things, right? And then another flexibility exercise, I love everyone to do a Single Leg Kick. Single Leg Kick, you’re going to be against gravity with your centers, you have to work with that, but you’re stretching the front of your hips. If you if that’s an issue, you could be doing Shoulder Bridge as a replacement for that. But it’s super key for those of us who sit a long time we have tight hip flexors, and often weak hamstrings.

And here’s the thing. Ladies, when you have tightness and weakness, things can be loose and weak or they can be tight and weak. And so increasing flexibility through your quadriceps in your hip flexors is key. So enjoy that Single Leg Kick. But most importantly, remember, we want to have a balance of stretch and strength. So it’s not all about stretching all the time. And we tend to overdo it. So when you do Pilates as your stretch practice as well, you’re actually going to have a much, much more balanced approach to your flexibility.

Stress Reduction and Mental Well-Being

So one of the things I find so impactful about having a Pilates practice, especially as a woman is there’s a lot that I’m responsible for, there’s a lot that’s on my mind. And it feels sometimes like I’ve got too many things to do and never enough time. And so it’s easy to not have my Pilates practice. But what’s amazing about making my Pilates practice a priority is it helps me reduce the stress, it actually helps me quit the world when that’s in my brain of all the things I’m responsible for. Because in order to do Pilates correctly, you have to be focusing on what’s moving from where. So you cannot actually think about the grocery list, and the things that kids need, or your boss needs, or your friends need, or that text message you’re supposed to respond to yesterday. You can only focus on how you’re connecting to your center, how you’re moving your arms and your legs to challenge those connections. And going from one exercise to the next. It’s truly a movement meditation.

And so if you are doing Pilates where you’re constantly hearing someone count for you, or overcorrect you, I strongly encourage you to have a practice at home on your Mat, picking some Mat classes where you can actually focus in on just your body doing the exercise. But also you can also find a teacher who doesn’t overcorrect. It’s really important to allow your brain to have space to move through some reps without any interaction. So you can actually go inward and focus on what you’re doing. I promise you at the end of a 15 minute, 20 minute, 30 minute, if you do have a full hour Pilates practice, you will have the energy like you ran a marathon. But you didn’t have to do that. And also some clarity in your brain of what you needed to go forward next in your day.

And look, if you’re so busy, that you’re just not feeling very motivated. Firstly, you’re not alone. Motivation is fickle. You can’t really rely on it. So don’t worry about that. Check out my video on How to Work Out When You Have Low Motivation. It’s designed to help you understand that firstly, you’re not alone. And also some ways that you can get movement as a prioritization without that motivation.

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Support During Pregnancy and Postpartum Recovery

Alright, so something I love about Pilates is that it will actually grow with you, it’ll meet you where you’re at in your life. So whether you’re super young watching this and starting your practice or you feel like you’re too old to start a new Pilates practice, the thing about Pilates that will really will meet you where you are. And that includes if you are on a pregnancy journey. So if you are becoming pregnant at this time or you’re working towards it, this is a best time to start a practice. The sooner you can start, the more your Pilates practice can go with you during your pregnancy. Now, for more details on Pilates during pregnancy, for prenatal and postnatal, please check out our Pilates for Pregnancy video, I go in way more detail on that. So if that is something that you’re interested in, go nerd out there. The other thing is that there’s actually exercises that you’ll start to omit from a Pilates practice, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do Pilates plies is one of the best exercise modalities you can do if you have a child bearing journey in your future because it really can prepare you for labor.

And we actually have an incredible workshop on onlinepilatesclasses.com from a trained pre and Postnatal Pilates instructor where she actually explains what exercises to make sure including, how to modify those exercises as your belly grows, and also how they can support your pelvis to deliver your baby. And so I encourage you to check out that workshop as well. Most importantly, if you are currently pregnant and you’re thinking about starting Pilates, I would highly recommend you find a certified pre postnatal person to work with in person, or to wait until after you’ve given birth because exercises are going to feel uniquely different as your belly is growing and body is changing. And if you don’t know what it was supposed to feel like before it can be interesting. And so you’d want to work with someone who actually understand what might be happening in your body and work with you in a particularly specialized way.

Support During Perimenopause, Menopause & Post Menopause

And maybe you’re in another part of your life. You’re in the perimenopause, or post menopause journey of your life. And here’s the thing, this is why I love Pilates. As I mentioned earlier, Pilates can help grow with you. And as we grow as women and we go through that perimenopause journey and then into menopause, low impact fitness is really key there are going to be days when doing extra inflammatory exercises are actually not ideal for the body that includes Heavy Weight Training, Hiit, CrossFit, going for a run. And so the thing about Pilates is you can actually do it every single day, especially if you’re using the Mat, and it will meet you where you are and allow your body to continue to go through its cycles that it needs to grow through, but in a supportive way without increasing inflammation. And so it’s important that you’re working with your medical professional on these things. But having a Pilates practice will allow you to feel like you can move your body in a safe and effective way improving your posture, strengthening your body, stretching what’s tight, but not add added stress to your body as you go through that journey.

Whether you are young or you feel like you’re too old to start Pilates, you are not. Pilates is designed for you. It is designed to help you do more of what you love better, and is here to help you increase your core strength, improve your flexibility, improve your posture, support you on a journey through pregnancy or perimenopause or everything in between. So you can take with you on the road, you can do at the end of a run or after a session at the gym. Pilates is designed to meet you where you are. And I really hope that you try out a Mat class or an equipment class.

Live Pilates Q&A: Sundays at 9 AM PT

If you have questions about why it’s working for you and your body, you can put those in the comments below. I’m happy to answer any questions you have. I go live every single Sunday and 9 am Pacific time to answer those questions. And if you’re an OPC member, actually we answer those questions inside of our community every single day. So you don’t have to wait to get those answers. And also we can give feedback on your form because I know we want to do things right ladies, we want to make sure we got our form right, that we’re making the most effective use of our time. And so I love to do that for our OPC members. Check out onlinepilatesclasses.com/free and try us out. If you start a Pilates practice because of this I’d love to know, let me know in the comments below. Thank you so much and have an amazing day.

By lesley.logan

Lesley Logan, NCPT, is the founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com, the first free online catalogue of Pilates exercise tutorial videos, where you can also find weekly online mat classes and workshops. When not teaching from her studio in Los Angeles, Lesley can be found traveling the world leading Pilates retreats, or offering Pilates business coaching to studio owners and other instructors through her private mastermind group. Connect with Lesley on instagram @lesley.logan or through the contact page on this site.

Loving this Pilates exercise tutorial? Take weekly online Pilates mat classes with OPC Teachers.
Enjoying Lesley's teaching style? Willing to travel? Explore the world while maintaining your practice by joining Lesley on a Pilates retreat.

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pop up summer tour | online pilates classes

SUCH A TEASE

ONLINE MAT & REFORMER PILATES CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

Teaser is probably one of the most photographed exercises in Pilates. Which makes people think it's a "peak pose." But, it's anything but! It's simply another layer to your Pilates practice. This week we will acknowledge how each exercise contributes to your ability to do Teaser (someday) and then how Teaser teaches you where to get curious in your practice.

On the Mat we will use light weights for one round of Teaser as they can be helpful for those still adding into their practice.
No props on the Reformer.

See you in class,

xx~LL

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, light weights and a Mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a Reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

UP, UP, & AWAY

ONLINE MAT, REFORMER, CADILLAC & WUNDA CHAIR PILATES CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

We are all going to feel like Super Humans after this month!!

Whenever I’m in a hard exercise (for me) where I’m holding myself up with my arms and reaching my legs away I picture myself with super human strength!!! I can do ANYTHING! It makes me smile and helps me stay STRONG.

This month our exercise is Up Stretch and when you think about it - reaching your legs away and staying strong over the carriage may feel a lot like flying!

We’ll be focusing on stabilizing our strong cores while staying equally balanced in our arms and legs. We are giving you some amazing building blocks by merging strength and stretch in all directions. You are going to get a little bit of everything that you can use to connect to your Up Stretch (and even your Roll Up and Knee Stretches Off).

Chair: Please have a foam roller and a balance pad available. We are going to challenge your balance safely.

xx-LL

I WANNA ROCK

Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

When I first started teaching another teacher in the studio I was at who had 20+ years of teaching was struggling with her client. They kept wanting to lift their head to extend. In every exercise no matter what she said their head would lift before their chest. She said "the worst thing we ever did was call the neck the neck." Now, I don't think its the WORST thing. I have some thoughts on chairs and shoes. But, its up there! If you've been struggling with Swan, Swimming, Rocking and some of our other fun extension exercises this week is for you!

Grab a magic circle for a fun warm up on the Mat and Reformer. Don't have one? No problem I've got options for ya!

See ya in class,
xx-LL 💋

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, Magic Circle and a mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, Magic Circle and a reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.


UPTOWN FUNK

Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

Roll Up. Love it or leave it?

However you feel about it might change over the next week as we explore how to use our side waist and leg muscles to improve your Roll Up!!

It might seem like a funky way to improve your spinal movements, but by using different variations we’ll help you connect your legs to your center. And once you do that you can listen to your body and explore where you need to create more space or find more muscles!

By the way, if you took last fall’s BOOmerang class, you’ll absolutely LOVE the mat workout this week!!

Props Needed:
Mat: Grab a Barrel or Blanket
Reformer: Reformer box & Pole

See you in class,
Rachel

I DIP, YOU DIP, WE DIP

Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

I happened to hear an oldy but a goody the other day. One that when it came out my parents for sure would not have wanted me to listen to. But, I was curious about the lyrics and found an old music video. And it made me think about how we often tell you about what to do with your hip points, tailbone and even the crest of your hip. So, for a long time, we've been asking you to dip as we dipped. Ok, maybe not as dramatic or even something you'd do on a dance floor. But for this week, we'll be focusing on our pelvis, where it is in space. So you can dip wherever you are whenever you want!

No props needed.

See ya in class,
xx-LL 💋

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

UPTOWN FUNK

Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

Roll Up. Love it or leave it?

However you feel about it might change over the next week as we explore how to use our side waist and leg muscles to improve your Roll Up!!

It might seem like a funky way to improve your spinal movements, but by using different variations we’ll help you connect your legs to your center. And once you do that you can listen to your body and explore where you need to create more space or find more muscles!

By the way, if you took last fall’s BOOmerang class, you’ll absolutely LOVE the mat workout this week!!

Mat: Grab a Barrel or Blanket
Reformer: Reformer box & Pole

See you in class,
Rachel

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, barrel or blanket and a mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, reformer box, pole and a reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.


I DIP, YOU DIP, WE DIP

Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

I happened to hear an oldy but a goody the other day. One that when it came out my parents for sure would not have wanted me to listen to. But, I was curious about the lyrics and found an old music video. And it made me think about how we often tell you about what to do with your hip points, tailbone and even the crest of your hip. So, for a long time, we've been asking you to to dip as we dipped. Ok, maybe not as dramatic or even something you'd do on a dance floor. But for this week, we'll be focusing on our pelvis, where it is in space. So you can dip wherever you are whenever you want!

No props needed.

See you in class,
xx-LL 💋

WILD SIDE

Online Mat, Reformer, Cadillac & Wunda Chair Pilates Class Descriptions:

Pilates is one of the few movement practices that focuses on our side body! And, our side body is what keep us from falling! And, it's also integral to our posture. So, let's nerd out with our Wild Sides!

Let's have fun focusing on twisting, side bending and the spine shapes in between that help and our helped by our Wild Sides!

Mat class: Magic Circle
Reformer class: No props needed
Tower/Cadillac class: A reformer pole and the reformer box, but both are technically optional!
Wunda Chair class: Theraband or an old pair of leggings!

See ya in class,
xx-LL 💋

HIGH FIVE FOR ALL

ONLINE MAT, REFORMER, CADILLAC & WUNDA CHAIR PILATES CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

In Pilates we often talk about the 5 spinal shapes… do you know them? No worries if you don’t yet as this month we’re going to explore them all! How tall, round, extended, rotated or bent from our sides that we can be gives us more power & control during exercise. Let’s see what we can feel when we put the focus on working toward these particular shapes… And, lookout for combo shapes!"

On the Reformer, please have a ball, Magic Circle and your pole. A couple of pillows and a Swiffer handle all make great substitutes!
Mat, Tower/Cadillac and Wunda Chair: No props needed.

See ya in class,
xx-LL 💋

CAN WE KICK IT?

Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

Side Kick Series and Kneeling Side Kicks are great full-body exercises that require a lot of connections from front to back and head to toe. In your classes this week we will work on the connection of our upper back, glute/Thass®, and abdominal strength to help with these exercises and see how your practice links together. Single leg work on the reformer as well as side body work will give you more information to help you in your Side Kicks. No props needed for this class.

See you in class,
Mindi

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.


I WANNA ROCK

Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

When I first started teaching another teacher in the studio I was at who had 20+ years of teaching was struggling with her client. They kept wanting to lift their head to extend. In every exercise no matter what she said their head would lift before their chest. She said "the worst thing we ever did was call the neck the neck." Now, I don't think it's the WORST thing. I have some thoughts on chairs and shoes. But, its up there! If you've been struggling with Swan, Swimming, Rocking and some of our other fun extension exercises this week is for you!

Grab a magic circle for a fun warm up on the Mat and Reformer. Don't have one? No problem I've got options for ya!

See ya in class,
xx~LL 💋