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Pilates-new Age Gimmick or More?

Ever since Joseph Pilates invented this popular form of exercise, Pilates has been patronized by many including Hollywood celebrities//. It is widely recommended for losing weight, reducing or eliminating back pain and improving posture. Yet experts now question whether Pilates is any good, at least for reducing back pain, a common problem in many.

Participants of Pilates are taught to strengthen a muscle called transversus abdominus, which is done by drawing the navel to the spine and lifting the pelvic floor.

Yet, according to Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, it is this concept of "drawing in" that is the problem. He and his colleagues have found that strengthening this "core" muscle often worsens back pain.

It was by measuring how different loads and forces affect the way the spine functions, that McGill found that the transversus abdominus muscle does not play as pivotal a role in protecting the back as was once thought.

"If you hollow in, you bring the muscles closer to the spine and you reduce the stability of the back," McGill says. "Try rising from a chair with a hollowed-out stomach. Not only are you weak, it is very difficult."

This ‘drawing in of core muscles’ became a fitness mantra ten years ago when Australian researchers found that people with lower back pain used the muscle less when they did various physical tasks.

The researchers recommended that physiotherapists teach patients how to contract both the transversus abdominus muscle and another; the multifidus, in the lower back.

Lead researcher, Professor Carolyn Richardson of the University of Queensland's department of physiotherapy, has recently admitted she was concerned that the fitness industry had made the technique as popular as conventional stretching and warming-up exercises.

"I've found that for the fitness industry, it's a poor instruction that is
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