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Is Pilates a Good Workout?

So . . . Is Pilates Worth All That Extra Money?

A Pilates class has a powerful ability to transform the body, lean out muscles, and amass a totally-devoted following of die-hard studio addicts. It's Kate Hudson's favorite workout and beloved by fitness enthusiasts the world over. And why? Because it works!

But here's the thing: Pilates is not cheap. With group classes ranging from $30 to over $50 and private lessons in the hundreds, it doesn't always feel like the most financially practical move. However, there's totally a reason for the extra cost — for one, those machines! We wanted to take a look at the specific benefits of using a Reformer versus doing at-home and general group fitness classes.

  • It's multiple gym machines in one. Confused at the gym? Don't know which machine to use? Want to work multiple muscle groups simultaneously? The do-it-all-for-you Reformer is the machine you've been waiting for — you can work core, leg, booty, arm, and back muscles with this wondrous device.
  • Your form is in check. Katie Warmuth, instructor at Pilates ProWorks in San Francisco told us that the Reformer "provides the added benefit of lengthening and toning the muscles safely, while improving your flexibility and posture [since] your muscles work against the resistance of the springs — causing an eccentric muscle contraction — to lengthen as they contract."

    We also chatted with Jenn Seracuse, director of FlexPilates, who said, "You can't cheat" on the machines. "If you aren't engaged, you'll know right away." When you're on the machine, if you're not in the right position, you're not going to be able to get into the move, so there's less room for error when it comes to form — especially because of the more personalized attention in a smaller class (we'll get to that next). This means you'll be keeping proper form consistently and preventing injury.

  • More personal instruction. Have you ever been in a class jam-packed with 60 people, wondering if the instructor even knows you're there? I can tell you — I definitely have, and it can be frustrating, especially when you show up hoping for some adjustments and more personal guidance. The benefit of Pilates classes is that there are a limited amount of machines in the room — meaning a limited amount of students and more personalized attention and instruction.

    "Having someone there who can watch you and hands-on correct your form is invaluable," said Seracuse. "Some other types of group fitness pack people in so there is no way the instructor can get to everyone to correct form." This also means it's not the class to come to and hide out in the back, and it can be tough to book if you're not on top of your schedule. But if you're looking for something that feels like personal training without the $100+ per hour fees, Pilates is for you.

  • Deeper muscle activation. After taking a few of my first Pilates classes, I had moments when I was like, "Ohhhh, there's a muscle in there!" and felt soreness I wouldn't have without some kind of machine. Honestly, there are parts of my butt I never knew existed until I started doing leg work on the Reformer. It's a soreness and workout I don't get from squats, that's for sure. "The surfaces are unstable, so you need to be focused through the entire workout and can't help but turn on the deep stabilizing muscles," said Seracuse.
  • Extra emphasis on core. While Reformer classes provide a full-body workout, they're especially focused on improving core strength. "Core strength ultimately helps you to be more balanced in other workouts and everyday life," said Warmuth. And core doesn't just mean flat abs! This helps strengthen your back, protecting your spine and posture. Seracuse reinforced this, adding, "There is a lot of balance and stability work that helps build core strength, which you can take with you into your body weight workouts to ensure proper form."
  • It's low-impact and great for joints. Dealing with knee injury, joint pain, or building strength during injury recovery? A Reformer class is a great place to start. "Using the Reformer is low-impact on the joints," said Warmuth. "In fact, it helps improve joint stability, making it a great addition to your workout regimen, especially if you're a runner or often do intense cardio that may be hard on your joints."

Still worried about dollars? Try some of these helpful tips on saving money on boutique fitness.

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