Developed by Joseph Pilates to strengthen his own body.
Pilates (pronounced pill-AHT-ees) exercise can be an effective method for people with fibromyalgia to build muscle strength and alleviate chronic muscle tension.
Though many people believe it focuses on the abdominal muscles, the Pilates approach actually reshapes the entire body through a focus on breath and awareness of movement. By gently stretching and strengthening muscles, opening joints, and releasing tension, regular practitioners of the Pilates method feel more energized, find their movements less restricted, and experience an improved sense of well-being—all of which is beneficial for people with FM.
Following are a few examples of how you can bring the Pilates approach home with simple tools like a ball and a resistance band.
Sitting on a ball increases torso stability and balance, helping your body build up the postural muscles and core. It also aids in supporting unstable joints. Be sure to sit tall, with your hips and knees in alignment. Your abdomen should be pulled in as you exert energy with each movement and breath.
The advantages of using a resistance band include the ability to vary the tension according to your capability, and the freedom to exercise without heavy equipment. Be sure to warm up the body before you begin, and to focus on each movement with mindful breath and abdominal control.
These Pilates exercises are designed to strengthen the arms and upper body.
- With your arms extended, hold the band in front of your chest, sliding your shoulders away from your ears. Inhale.
- Exhale, pulling your abdominal muscles in. Stretch the band sideways, initiating the movement from your shoulder blades. Return to starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Lift both arms overhead without letting your shoulders inch toward your ears. Inhale.
- As you exhale, extend your arms into a letter T, stretching the band behind your head while engaging the lats. Return to starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.
More Pilates exercises designed to strengthen the arms and upper body.
- Place the band under your feet, keeping one end in each hand. (Hold it closer to the ends to lighten the resistance, or grip it closer to the center for a greater challenge.) Keeping the arms bent at the elbow, align the elbows with the shoulders. Inhale.
- Exhale, keeping the elbows bent and the upper arms stationary. Slowly and deliberately, swing the lower arms out to the sides. Inhale and return to starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Hinge slightly forward at the hips, bending your elbows. Firmly anchor the arms by the sides of your body. Inhale.
- Exhale and straighten the elbows, isolating the movement to the lower arms. The shoulder, arm, and wrist should form a straight line. Return to starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.
These Pilates exercises are designed to strengthen and increase flexibility in the lower body.
- Place the center of the band beneath one foot, being sure to keep one end of the band in each hand. As you lie down on your back, bend that leg into your chest. Then straighten it upward, perpendicular to the ﬂoor. Flex the foot so the sole faces the sky. Keep the other leg ﬂat on the mat.
- Inhale, and circle the raised leg inward, bringing it slightly across the center of your body (2), then down and around (3). Don’t try for too big a circle—it’s important to keep the rest of your body stabilized on the mat. Exhale as the leg circles back towards the top. Repeat 5-10 times. Reverse the circle 5-10 times. Repeat with the other leg.