We’re in the middle of winter now, which means activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice skating are in full swing. And we LOVE these kinds of activities because they have so many benefits. They get you outside when so many people want to hibernate during the cold winter months. They are great for your cardiovascular system. They’re a great activity to do with your friends or family. And they can keep you active, healthy, and mobile well into your 50’s and 60’s.
Like any repetitive sport or activity, however, there are always risks when it comes to your muscles and joints.
The good news is that optimizing your core strength has many benefits and can not only keep you doing these winter sports better, but for much longer. Our favorite way to improve core strength is through Pilates. It’s easy on your joints, accessible to all ages, and incorporates your entire body.
Here are five ways that Pilates keeps you fit during the winter months and with your favorite winter activities.
1. You breathe better
You might not think of breath when it comes to core strength – but it’s actually the FIRST thing you should think of. Deep core strength begins with having a full and coordinated breath. When you do Pilates, full and proper breathing is coordinated into every move. You learn how to move and strengthen your whole body while also breathing. When you control your breathing, you control your core.
2. Improved mobility and flexibility
A strong body doesn’t not mean you have to be stiff. In fact, some of the strongest people I know don’t look big or bulky. They have trained their muscles to be conditioned and strong through all aspects of movement. Pilates focuses specifically on teaching you how to contract and get power through your muscles throughout the entire range of movement. This can be a real asset when you’re participating in winter sports or activities that require you to be quick and agile, like skiing!
3. Decreased chance of injury
The purpose of core training is to strengthen the complex system of muscles that make up the trunk of your body — not just your abdominals — in order to increase stability, motor control, flexibility, and balance. A strong core aids in proper body mechanics and reduces the risk of injury. Core training is more than just doing crunches! It’s the process of integrating all the muscular systems in your trunk with your limbs in order to coordinate movement and limit the stress you put on your joints. Skiers, for example, are notorious for knee injuries. Many amateur skiers rely too strongly on their legs to carry them down the mountain — instead of focusing on a strong, stable core. If you have better endurance, flexibility, and control through those essential core muscles, you’re less likely to put unnecessary stress on your joints (such as your knees).
4. Better balance
Whereas many exercise regimens focus on the extremities, Pilates develops the core first and gradually works out towards the limbs. Pilates teaches full-body control and stability in a small range of motion first. Then it moves on to a larger range of motion as the individual gains confidence and control over their body. This is where Pilates becomes especially helpful for older adults, who have to manage natural loss of balance and coordination due to aging. For an older adult who still wants to hit the slopes or enjoy the outdoors when the ground is icy, uneven, and slippery, the benefits of Pilates for balance are crucial in avoiding falls.
5. Improved mind-body connection
Pilates doesn’t just strengthen your core — it teaches you how to use your core properly, coordinate it with your breath, have good coordination, and be naturally aware of your body movement. We use Pilates in conjunction with physical therapy for those exact reasons. It’s a great rehabilitation strategy for people recovering from injuries. It’s also a great prevention strategy for active adults who want to stay active! Practicing Pilates helps you to be more alert and aware of your movements, and can keep you enjoying those winter sports well into your “golden” years.
Want to learn more?
Head over to our website to learn about the various Pilates classes that we offer in our Portsmouth, New Hampshire location! You can also sign up for a FREE Pilates Taster or read more about how Pilates can help you stay strong and healthy this winter.