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  "De eerste authentieke Pilates-studio

  in Oost-Vlaanderen"

  Foto's: Bart Van Leuven / Frédérique Debras

Welkom bij Christl Clear Pilates

The exercises can help with everything from strength to coordination

The Pilates reformer is an adjustable bed-like frame. It consists of a movable carriage that rolls on wheels and is attached to the end of the bed (a flat, static foot rest with a footbar) by different coloured springs, providing various resistance. There are shoulder blocks to stop you sliding off, plus straps with handles for you to carry out various exercises - whether you're standing, sitting, using additional equipment, stood off the reformer, etc.

Sounds scary, right? Although it may look like a torture device, the reformer is an ingenious and multifaceted piece of equipment. Just like regular Pilates moves, using a reformer can help with lengthening, stretching, strength, flexibility, balance, posture, toning, weight loss and coordination.

It's also immensely versatile and you can work a huge amount of muscle groups using a myriad of techniques. Lucy Thirsk – a Bootcamp Pilates Master Trainer explains: "Pilates is a fantastic way to lengthen and tone muscles. It particularly focuses on core control which can help prevent lower back pain and it improves mobility of your joints keeping individuals supple. Pilates is great exercise which complements other activities, many famous sports personalities such as Andy Murray use Pilates as part of their exercise routine."

Here's what else you need to know about reformer Pilates:

You can be any level of fitness

While high intensity workouts can often seem daunting for some, reformer Pilates can be adjusted to suit any level, and any age.

"Pilates is suitable for most individuals, if you have any medical conditions you will need confirmation from your doctor that exercise isn't going to effect your condition. However, you do not need to be fit before you start."

The moves are low impact and can be injury-friendly

The exercises are usually gentle on joints and low impact, making it suitable for those who have had previous injuries.

"If you have an injury it is best to see your doctor before attending a Pilates session. Pilates is used as rehabilitation for certain injuries so depending on your injury you might be advised to attend Pilates. You do need to use some common sense if you are injured. For example, if you have a broken leg then no you shouldn't attend, however, if you have an ongoing knee problem then yes as long as you have had clearance from a medical professional. A lot of individuals attend Pilates to help strengthen and build up muscles to help with previous injuries."

It's not cardio, but it might get your heart racing

Unless your Pilates class is a HIIT hybrid (yes, they exist), Pilates won't get your heart rate up as much as, say, going for a run or a strenuous bike ride. However, it will still get the blood pumping.

"As a general rule, you won't get a cardiovascular workout from Pilates. It's about strengthening and toning muscles without bulking. Although your heart rate may increase it is not the same as going for a brisk walk, a run or a cycle ride."

It's fantastic for improving posture

Whether you're young or old, a good posture and core strength is integral to health, including reducing your risk of back pain.

"Pilates is about axial elongation and core control; it focuses on lengthening through the spine. It helps build the smaller local muscles which in time improves stability and posture. Clients have commented on feeling longer and leaner on completing a Pilates session."

You don't have to attend classes religiously

The benefits of Pilates can be seen, even if you attend one a week, alongside other physical activity.

"For the quickest results, Pilates should ideally be done between 2 & 3 times a week and it should be incorporated into a training program that includes some cardiovascular exercise. However, if you only have the time and money for one session a week it is still very beneficial. As Joseph Pilates said 'in 10 sessions you will feel a difference, in 20 sessions you will see a difference and in 30 you will have a whole new body'. Once you have been taught the basics you should be able to apply them to everyday life."