Pilates Northern Beaches builds strength, flexibility and lean muscle tone with an emphasis on lengthening the body and aligning the spine. We all know that cardio and weight training will help you lose weight and get into shape quickly. Pilates is often overlooked as weight loss exercises because it is usually advertised as only targeting the abdominal muscles.

Here are six Pilates exercises provided by our fitness professionals that will make you sweat, boost your metabolic rate like cardio, and strengthen your core similar to weight training. All you need is a mat and fifteen minutes.

Exercise 1: Lie on your back and extend your legs long, place your hands under the small of your back. Lift your neck, head and shoulders up off the mat. Make sure that you have a space the size of a lemon between your chin and chest. Lift your legs to the ceiling and lower. Count to four each time you lift and lower your legs. Repeat this exercise ten times then rest.

The key to a great Pilates routine is to move as though your belly button was permanently glued to your spine and you are reaching long through your finger tips and shoulders.

Exercise 2: Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the mat and reach your arms long towards your toes. Extend your legs in the air at a 45 degree angle and hold them there, toes pointed. Keep that lemon sized spaced between your chest and chin and pump your arms as if you are slapping water. Complete 100 pumps in under a minute. Not only are you working your abdominal muscles, you are working your leg and arms muscles as well while the abdominals hold your core in place. Do for 1 minute, then rest.

Pilates includes all the muscles in the body and most Pilates exercises use the abs to stabilize while the body moves around the core. This type of motion that uses the abs as stabilizers is unique to Pilates specifically and will increase your metabolic rate, heart rate and in turn burn calories.

Exercise 3: Sit on your mat with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Extend your left leg to the ceiling. Slowly roll your body down to the mat, keeping the left leg lifted and right foot glued to the mat. Think of Velcro on your spine and mat and slowly roll one vertebrae at a time to the mat. Inhale, extend your arms above your head, drop your left foot and lift your right foot. Roll up one vertebra at a time and reach for that extended right foot. Repeat ten times then rest.

An intermediate Pilates workout burns 390 calories and an advanced workout burns 480, according to Kevin Rail, author at eHow.com, “How To Do Everything”. Pilates compliments traditional cardio and weight training routines or can be used as an alternative to both forms of exercise while obtaining similar health benefits.

Exercise 4: Sit up on the mat with your knees up and feet flat on the mat. Inhale, and then lift your feet off the mat. Keeping your knees bent, move your arms to the right of your legs and exhale. Pause one second. Swing your arms to the left and your legs right on the next inhale and reverse on the exhale. Be sure to inhale and exhale each time you swing the arms across. Remember to use your abs not your momentum to move the body and to breathe for each motion. Repeat ten times then rest.

Pilates is breathing and exercise combined. A lot of times, people will not pay attention to their muscles when they are working out or talk on the phone while they are supposed to be jogging on the treadmill. Pilates forces you to focus on your core connection, your breath and each movement you do and thus you burn more calories just ‘being in the moment’.

Exercise 5: Lie on the mat with knees up and feet placed on the mat. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the mat and place your hands under your sit bones for support. Inhale as you lift your knees to your chest, then exhale as you extend legs long to the ceiling and all the way to the mat, almost but not quite touching the floor. Inhale again, knees to chest, lift to ceiling and extend long to the mat. Each move should take a full four seconds to complete. Repeat ten times then rest.

Pilates uses core muscles to provide the exercise component while using smaller muscles to provide the control of the rest of the body. The exercises will feel difficult because you are using your small muscles that you do not normally use when doing cardio or weight training. Once your body learns to rely on these “stabilizers” you will notice that you can handle more cardio time on the treadmill and actually lift more weights. Your yoga balance will improve and so will your everyday activities. Not to mention you will see the fat pounds melt right off!

Exercise 6: Sit with your feet on the mat and knees lifted into your chest. Place your arms long on the sides of your legs and pretend that someone has grabbed your waist and is pulling you back from the space just above your hips. Roll your back to the mat, keeping your feet flat and imagining that Velcro strip from your spine to the mat. Inhale on the way down. Exhale and begin by lifting your head, neck and shoulders off the mat and rolling up, each vertebrae one at a time until you peel up and reach over your knees. Once you hit the top, extend your right arm behind you and your left arm long in front of you. Inhale and lower to mat. Exhale again as you lift head, neck and shoulders off the mat and this time reach the right arm in front of you and the left arm long behind you. Repeat ten times then rest.

Pilates, even if done for only 15 minutes each day, will strengthen the core, burn calories, engage the small muscle groups and provide overall weight loss. If you combine cardio and weight training with a daily regimen of Pilates you will see quick and powerful results with only a minimal of 15 minutes of effort daily.

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