If you’ve ever sneezed, laughed, coughed, or jumped and wet yourself a little, you’re not alone. The instigator is a weakened pelvic floor, and it is synonymous with aging. Pregnancy, childbirth, weight gain, and the shifting hormones in the years leading up to menopause collectively destabilize pelvic muscles. And though involuntary bladder leakage was once a taboo subject, sharing experiences and treating the problem through exercise are the new norm. Pilates can help.
Hit the (Pelvic) Floor
The pelvic floor is the group of muscles that form a hammock to hold the uterus, bladder, bowels, and other pelvic organs in place. Beyond evading incontinence, a strong pelvic floor is vital, says exercise physiologist Adrienne Flinn. “These muscles lay the groundwork for a ton of muscular firing. … A strong pelvic floor serves as the true core of the body and will decrease risk of injury, improve biomechanics, and help with muscular imbalances,” she says.
And boosting your “powerhouse” (Pilates jargon for “core strength”) improves posture, increases energy, and flexibility — and helps you experience better orgasms.
Movement Is Medicine
While kegels were once the go-to for strengthening the pelvic floor, Pilates is proving itself an effective way to strengthen even the weakest “muscular trampoline.”
Combining nearly 50 simple, repetitive exercises, Pilates strengthens pelvic floor muscles while building endurance and coordination. Whether you use a mat or a reformer — the bedlike frame with springs and a sliding carriage — each exercise starts by stabilizing the core and advances through a controlled range of motion. Novices and athletes alike can get stronger fast, given an unlimited range of challenges and the ability to tailor a Pilates workout to meet specific needs.
Pilates is results driven, with research showing improvement in abdominal endurance, flexibility, and balance within eight weeks of training.
Classic Pilates movements to improve flexibility, abdominal, and lumbo-pelvic stability, and muscular activity include:
Feel — and Look — Your Best
Pilates is more than therapeutic: It’s also a beauty tool. Devotees swear by the mind-body connection as a stress reliever, which can enhance your skin (less breakouts, rashes, and lines), hair (loss and color), and nails. And Heather Andersen, founder of New York Pilates, believes, “When you take Pilates classes regularly, you will see a noticeable change in your posture, which builds beauty and confidence from the inside out.”
Photo: Fresh Splash