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Learning Pilates
One Stretch at a Time

By Amada Hesser
New York Times - Science

"Even men do Pilates. We get a lot of them." It is true. During my workouts at least one-third were men. Besides, there is, as I soon learned, nothing feminine about Pilates.

I was beginning to understand why Mr. Pilates called his workout Contrology. For every exercise that focuses on strengthening muscle, another stretches the body and encourages balance. And each movement - whether a derivative of the sit up with legs jutting in the air, or lying flat and pulling on leather harnesses attached to springs - involves stabilizing the core of the body, the torso and buttocks, while moving the arms or legs. (This is the part that appeals to women: The movements are small and repetitions are short, so you tone muscle with-out bulking up.)

What is extraordinary about Pilates is its broad appeal. Some professional dancers do it to maintain flexibility and stay fit without adding excess stress to their bodies. And unlike running or aerobics, Pilates is good for the elderly, people with injuries, and even pregnant women.

As for me, Pilates was a revelation. I had not realized how tight my muscles had become working in an office, slouching over a computer keyboard. By the third session, I was a convert. I was getting the aerobic workout I wanted while regaining some of the flexibility I had lost.

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