By Sara Harvey – This post is all about mat Pilates, which is a very popular “strength-mind-body” class offered at a variety of gyms and fitness centers.  Pilates was created in the 1920’s by Joseph Pilates, a trained nurse with a lifelong passion for body training and conditioning.

What is it? A Pilates mat class is a group class focused on strengthening the core of the body (which Joseph Pilates calls the “powerhouse.”).  The class builds flexibility and is often promoted as building lean and long muscles in its followers.

Why is it great? A Pilates mat class is a great alternative for someone looking for an effective alternative to cardio training while still enjoying the atmosphere of a group training opportunity.

How difficult is it?  Hmmm…it isn’t easy, but it certainly isn’t high-impact either.  The moves are challenging but doable, even for beginners with the right instructor.  I especially like that most of the exercises are done either on your back or on your stomach, so if you have any mobility issues, Pilates might be a better option for you than perhaps yoga (but please check with your physician).

How sweaty is it? For most people, Pilates is not sweaty.  It is challenging, so if you are looking for a fitness experience that could be completed over the lunch hour—between work and happy hour— Pilates is for you!

Is special equipment is needed?  The class does take place on the floor, so a mat is used.  Most gyms provide these free of charge.  The classes I have attended have also used a slightly deflated gym ball (used for lower back support), but that is also provided.  While no equipment is needed for a beginner class, some more advanced classes might use equipment designed by Joseph Pilates, such as the magic circle.  Again, this equipment is typically provided.

Other comments?  Mat Pilates is available on DVD for those persons wanting to work out at home.   Give Pilates a try for a speedy, effective core workout.

At Marquette, the Employee Wellness Program offers Pilates Mat and other faculty/staff group fitness classes as well as a variety of exercise videos for employees to borrow.  The Department of Recreational Sports offers a variety of group fitness classes at the Rec Center and Rec Plex for students and employees to take advantage of.

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