Pilates and depression

The cold, wet, dark and dreary days of english winter are dawning upon us. We might be feeling down in the dumps, a bit depressed with the weather, and tired of how the days just seem roll on by. However, some of us might also be suffering from actual mental depression; emotions that can’t always be helped with a sunny day and a bit of warm weather. Here again is why I am so proud to be able to spread the Pilates love as it can help those suffering to decrease levels of anxiety and depression.

Depression and anxiety can be defined in many ways, however the general sense and symptoms can be identified through: a feeling of losing control whether it is of their life, physical appearance, stress levels, etc. Pilates is a contemplative form of exercise using a connection between the mind and the body. ‘Pilates puts people back in touch with their bodies, creates body awareness and educates them on how they can move to feel good about themselves’ and eventually to sustain confidence. We use deep breathing in Pilates that creates a meditative aspect to the movements which helps to calm the mind and reduce stress. Muscular tension is reduced and muscular strength is gained.

Pilates forces you to focus inward for the duration of the workout. This already is an achievement to help the client realise they have full control of their mind and their body. ‘Those suffering from anxiety and depression can easily feel overwhelmed by anything so actually seeing your own body perform healthy, actively and elegantly, it restores your faith and belief in what you can achieve. A healthy self-image is incredibly positive and enormously empowering. If you could put away your problems for a set period of time each day, you would have a fresh perspective when you returned to your daily life.’

You might have heard people tell you ‘exercise, it releases endorphins that cheer you up’, I know I have heard that sentence thousands of times. But what does it mean and how could it possibly help my anxiety or depression? The monoamines in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, have an improved transmission rate when exercising occurs. These named chemicals in the brain directly affect your mood.  Serotonin is believed to influence a variety of body functions including those psychological related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behaviour. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres. It also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, it enables us not only to see rewards but to take action to move toward them. To conclude, all effects are beneficial!

‘A research study that actually looked into the mental benefits of Pilates was conducted in the UK. This particular study involved depressed women, at a residential women’s centre, who did 30-45 minutes of Pilates, 3 days a week in a group class setting over a 12 week period. Researchers measured levels of serotonin before the women began Pilates and once again after the 12 weeks were complete. In addition to serotonin, they measured depression levels, blood pressure, flexibility, endurance, and strength before and after the intervention. The results were clear, Pilates helps! After the 12 weeks, the women had a significant increase in serotonin levels and a 34% drop in the severity of their depression. That level of improvement rivals the effects of some anti-depressant medications that directly target serotonin’s action in the brain. The ladies also reaped the physical benefits with improved muscular endurance (by 38%), Increased flexibility (by 48%), and a general growth in body strength overall. Literally every parameter that they measured improved, significantly.’

Each persons Pilates journey is different, be open to the mental developments as well as the physical. Bring the balance in to your life with Exhale Pilates London.

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