You may have heard or been told by your doctor that exercises such as yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are good for your health. But how do you know if these practices are right for you? If you are thinking about trying one of these, here’s what to expect and the health benefits.
Yoga is a mind and body practice that combines physical postures, stretching exercises, breathing techniques, and meditation. Yoga can improve flexibility, muscle strength, and range of motion. There are many yoga styles, ranging from slow and gentle to athletic and vigorous.
Pilates is a body conditioning routine that focuses on use of the abdominals, low back, hips, and thighs. Doing Pilates can enhance flexibility, improve endurance, tone muscles, and strengthen the body’s “core” (torso). There are different ways to practice Pilates. Some Pilates exercises require specialized equipment, but most Pilates exercises can be done on the floor with a mat.
Tai chi is a mind and body practice that involves shifting the body’s weight through a series of postures and rhythmic movements combined with mental focus, breathing, and relaxation techniques. Practicing tai chi can enhance flexibility, improve balance, and build muscle strength.
The fun factor: Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are enjoyable, non-strenuous ways to improve your fitness and they can be practiced indoors or outdoors, making it fun and convenient to do year round.
Happiness boost: These practices may increase your energy and stamina, reduce stress, and
enhance mood and overall well-being.
Social perks: Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi can all be practiced in a group setting such as a class, and can boost your social life.
Classes widely available: Most YMCAs, community or recreation centers, gyms, and some hospitals and medical centers offer classes. Many classes are low cost and they do not require a lot of gear or expensive equipment. Most of the exercises involve use of your own body weight and can be done on the floor with just a mat.
Excellent for meeting physical activity needs. These activities count toward the physical activity recommendations for strength training exercises of two times per week and moderate aerobic activity exercises of 150 minutes per week.
Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are all low-impact activities, which means they do not put stress on your joints. They are generally safe for healthy people (but always check with your healthcare provider before you start a new type of physical activity).
Some evidence suggests that these activities may help with some ongoing health conditions. Examples of specific health benefits may include:
If you’re thinking of trying yoga, Pilates, or tai chi, here are recommendations for your health and for having the best experience:
Five Tips: What You Should Know About Tai Chi for Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Physical Activity and Your Heart, American Heart Association
Pilates, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
Stress Management, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education
Tai Chi: A Gentle Way to Fight Stress, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
Tai Chi and Qi Gong, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Yoga and Older Adults, National Institute on Aging
Yoga as a Complementary Health Approach, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Yoga for Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.