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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pilates Exercise Focus: The Benefits of Exercising the Feet

Today's guest blog comes courtesy of Aliesa George, and Centerworks.

The Benefits of Exercising the Feet

The first Pilates exercises taught on the Reformer are for Footwork. And throughout a traditional Pilates workout, the feet are involved in every exercise. Sometimes pointed, sometimes flexed, and on many exercises moving between these two actions - to stretch, strengthen, and lengthen the calves, improve ankle mobility, and help improve balance. Nice that we’re laying on our backs for all this to begin so there are no worries about falling down while we’re finding our center, and strengthening our feet!

Just like every other aspect of Pilates training, focusing on your footwork will help improve every other exercise and skill you do! Our feet are a long ways away from our brain – and paying attention to what’s happening from our head to our toes can sometimes be a challenge. Every Pilates exercise that focuses specifically on healthy movement and stability at the feet is helping us get in better touch with our body and improving our posture and structural alignment from the ground up!

Did you know that Joseph Pilates even invented two small pieces of equipment specifically to help improve foot fitness? One is called the “Foot Corrector”, and the other is the “Toe Tensometer.” The good news, you don’t necessarily have to have these special Pilates foot-fitness toys to get the most from your Pilates training program or fitness workouts. By paying attention, and being consciously aware of correct alignment for your ankles, arches, and toes, and by doing all your exercises with the best form possible, you can get great results for healthy and happy feet! (And the rest of your whole body too!)

Joe Pilates developed lots of different exercises on the Reformer, Trapeze Table, and Chairs that allow you specific attention to your footwork. And Pilates Matwork is great to keep the pressure off your feet and still be exercising. But you’ll get even more great benefits out of every workout if you pay attention to, and know, exactly what your feet should be doing on every rep!

Why should we even care about our feet?

Well, we only have one pair! Foot replacement surgery doesn’t sound like a very fun option. (Not sure that it’s even available yet…) Our feet have to last a lifetime to help take us where we want to go. If we’re not carrying our body weight correctly on our feet – sooner or later a knee, hip, or back problem will result. (These additional joint injuries and pains can end up costing thousands of dollars in lost work time, foot pain, knee pain, back pain, medications, and surgeries!) And fixing a foot, knee, hip, or back issue with surgery may or may not solve the problem if the root of the issue is a muscular imbalance, or improper function at the feet!

Here’s the good news… All of this can be improved with your Pilates training and the right foot-care exercises! Aren’t you glad you do Pilates! Enjoy all that barefoot time you have during your Pilates workouts. Pay attention to when your feet are pointed or flexed, and do it well! Know that with each repetition of a Pilates footwork exercise you are helping to maintain your good health from the ground up!

Aliesa George is a Pilates teacher, workshop presenter, and the founder of Centerworks. She enjoys sharing her expertise with Pilates teachers and students to tweak Pilates exercise technique, and improve health and fitness. Discover more of her great Toe Tips and check out her helpful foot care products here.

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