It’s that time of year when the winter blues start to creep in, even as we enter into a period of renewal. Luckily, Pilates has been proven to have integrative physical and mental benefits that can help fight the onset of depression and improve your overall mental health. And, when we feel better physically, we can begin to harness that positivity to feel better in all aspects of our wellbeing. Read on to learn the many ways Pilates can help you!

Do you need some support improving your mental wellbeing? Call Sheppard Method Pilates in Westwood and schedule your class with a member of our team today!

Pilates and Mental Health

19 million adults are diagnosed with depression each year, and nearly 20% of U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder. Those numbers do not include undiagnosed bouts of negative mental wellness that countless more experience at any given time, including seasonal depression. Luckily, research has shown that Pilates is an incredible tool to combat feelings of depression and anxiety.

In 2011, a study conducted by the World Journal of Sports Sciences explored the mental benefits of Pilates at a residential women’s center, where participants did 30-45 minutes of Pilates three times a week over a 12-week period. Researchers measured participants’ levels of serotonin, depression levels, blood pressure, flexibility, endurance, and strength before and after the twelve weeks. The results indicated a significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in depression severity over three months. In fact, every measurable perimeter had improved!

Then, in 2014, another study examined the way Pilates affected anxiety attention, motivation, and cognitive function. While this study also established the many physical benefits of regular Pilates practice, it also concluded that “Pilates helps an individual to deal with a demanding situation by prompting them to cope with it.” This is accomplished through how Pilates increases energy and sleep quality, releases negative thinking, improves bodily comfort, relaxes muscles, improves blood and oxygen circulation flow to the brain, and therefore increases attention and concentration, and also encourages breathing exercises that decrease anxiety.

Exercise and Endorphins: How Does it Work?

We have likely heard that exercise releases endorphins, but what does that mean? Endorphins refer to any group of hormones secreted by the brain and nervous system; these hormones activate the body’s opiate receptors, which both alleviate physical pain and emotionally soothe you. Endorphins include serotonin and dopamine, which when triggered, can cause what is known as a “runner’s high” – a rush of extreme happiness and energized positivity.

Serotonin influences several physiological functions related to mood, appetite, sleep, libido, memory, and cognitive function, temperature regulation, and even social behavior. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It helps regulate movement and emotional responses and enables us to take action to seek reward. When we are suffering from depression, our serotonin (the happiness hormone) and dopamine (our pleasure and reward system) may be depleted. With regular exercise such as Pilates, we can increase and improve the transmission rate of our endorphins and our overall wellbeing.

Anxiety and Depression Can Have Physical Effects

Depression and anxiety do not only affect your mental health. Your physical wellness can also take a hit. Adjacent physical symptoms when experiencing depression include:

  • Fatigue and unexplained exhaustion
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint and limb pain
  • Neck and back pain
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Chest pain or achiness
  • Digestive issues such as nausea and gastrointestinal problems
  • Poor concentration and brain functionality loss

Luckily, moving your body in any way can help alleviate physical symptoms of depression. Pilates is a perfect option as it provides an approachable, gentle movement routine that directly addresses the ailments listed above while being strenuous enough to release the necessary mood-boosting endorphins.

How Sheppard Method Pilates Can Help Improve Your Mental Wellness

Depression and anxiety can be understood as an overwhelming onset of physical and mental symptoms that disallow you from living a fulfilled, enjoyable life. Because Pilates helps to connect the mind and body through holistic, contemplative practice, it can help combat the feelings of disconnect and hopelessness that depression can bring. Pilates invites awareness and control back into your life!

With deep breathing, meditative movements calm the anxious mind while reducing stress. Tension is released through the strengthening and lengthening of the muscles, and physical symptoms are alleviated. Because Pilates incorporates a strong mind-body connection, you are focused inward, achieving a sense of accomplishment and confidence that creates a healthy cycle of empowering positivity. Each time you practice Pilates, you are reminding yourself that you matter, and that mental fortitude remains with you for the rest of your day.

When it comes to alleviating depression, Pilates can overall help:

  • Brain health, including memory and concentration improvement
  • Confidence and sense of achievement
  • Routine (science has proven that a healthy routine is key in keeping depression at bay!)
  • Overall mood enhancement
  • Increased energy and better sleep
  • Optimal breathing patterns
  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms
  • Connection with community

While depression can cause feelings of helplessness, you have the power to take control of your mental health through a regular Pilates practice! Whether you’re experiencing the seasonal blues or have a long-term relationship with depression, Pilates is scientifically proven to improve you physically and mentally. At Sheppard Pilates of Westwood, we want you to be in the best mental health possible.

Call the Westwood Pilates instructors at Sheppard Method Pilates to discuss how we can help you include Pilates in your exercise regimen and boost your overall mental health. Schedule your class now!