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The Power of Pilates

By Liz Brody
Los Angeles Times - Health

This workout emphasizes strength through grace and flexibility. Oh, by the way, it's pronounced puh-LAH-teez.

Two hundred and twenty pounds, 74 inches and 42 years of poor posture are rigged up with chains and springs, semi-suspended on a contraption that looks like it belongs in a medieval torture chamber. It's actually Martin Sherman doing an exercise on the "Cadillac" at a Pilates studio in Venice. The 42-year-old framing business owner started Pilates training when other treatments for his chronic lower back pain failed, and in his view, it's thanks to this workout that he is now a picture of health. "Before, I would always revert to my old way of living and strain my back again. Now I walk differently. I'm using certain muscles I've never worked before, and I'm more aware of my body so I'm not re-injuring myself."

"The internal awareness of how you're performing the exercise is more important than seeing how buff you get from doing it. That will come later," says Sotelo, owner of Soma Syntax Studio in Venice. "It's really not about fitting into some spandex dress. People walk out and say, 'I'm more graceful, my posture is better-Wow, I have no pain!'"

"If done correctly, Pilates corrects known underlying flexibility imbalances, and by having normal flexibility around the joints, you're less likely to pull a muscle," says Dr. Carol L. Otis, chief medical ad-visor for the Corel Women's Tennis Assn. Tour.

All-Over Conditioning, Low Risk of Injury

Century City internist Dr. Ronald Sue says Pilates works the body in a balanced way. Because each movement uses many major muscle groups, it is an efficient form of exercise. A big advantage of Pilates conditioning is that people with painful physical conditions can still use the apparatus. Several physical therapists are using Pilates to rehabilitate people with arthritis, osteoporosis and other conditions. Sue says Pilates is a good way to get in shape without risking injury if you have joint disease or are recuperating from surgery.

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