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MS and Pilates

By Matt Cavallo


Working from home has its privileges and you can’t beat the commute, but when you look at my home office it is an ergonomics nightmare. When I’m not traveling, my work consists of mostly typing on the computer and talking on the phone. Typically, I conduct these tasks fully reclined, comfortably sitting in my Lazy-Boy.
 
When I am on the clock, this is where you’ll find me for hours at a time. The problem is that when I get up, I am sore and stiff. I am usually limp for a couple of steps before I can shake it off and start walking normally again.
 
Whether it is my poor ergonomics or complications related to MS, my posture is becoming a problem. I would say that my core is also weak. I believe the trifecta of poor posture, weak core, and MS have affected my balance. Realizing that I am having problems with my posture, core strength, and balance, I wanted to research some complementary and alternative methods to address these problems. That is how I found Pilates.
 
Pilates is named after its inventor, Joseph Pilates, who developed the exercise routine in the 1920s. Interesting fact, Joseph Pilates was held in an England internment camp during World War I because he was a German citizen living in England. During this time, he used bed springs and other equipment during his internment to teach the other detainees how to do resistance training. The tools he made during this time became the foundation for Pilates today.
 
After the war, Joseph Pilates moved to the United States and opened his first studio in New York. He shared space with the New York city ballet and his early clientele were ballerinas. This was interesting to me because I had always thought that Pilates was a newer exercise technique and didn’t realize the history.
 
My interest in Pilates began because it is a strength training routine that I can do from my home and doesn’t require me to lift heavy weights. As someone living with MS, I prefer low impact exercises, but still want that strength training benefit. Pilates helps you build core muscles through low impact exercise, movements and resistance, however, you do not have to be in shape like a New York City ballerina to do Pilates.
 
There are many Pilates options for beginners. You also don’t need specialized equipment. Most Pilates can be done on a mat on the floor. Most gyms, including the YMCA, offer Pilates classes. Make sure you talk to your instructor ahead of time to ensure that they are certified and that the class is appropriate for beginners. There are also DVD or online video options if you would like to start a Pilates routine in the comfort of your own home.
 
The health benefits of Pilates include:
 
  • Increased core strength
  • Reduced back pain
  • Improved posture, balance and flexibility
 
Like any workout routine, it is important to talk to your physician before you start. If you are suffering from anything in addition to MS, like bulging or herniated discs, you should make sure that you are medically cleared before starting any workout routine. If you have MS and are looking for a low-impact, strength training routine, Pilates may work for you.