What is the best exercise to do? Should you do Yoga or Pilates ?

I am often asked this question, and the short answer is YES you should do Yoga.

Or Pilates.

Or something else.

Does it matter which one you do?

That depends.

Depends on whether you can find a class you can get to regularly, and is something you enjoy and can make part of your weekly routine.

It also depends on finding a good teacher. A  good teacher is one who pays attention to the individuals in the class so that each person can make the exercise effective for themselves.

With a good teacher, the class is not just the same routine every time, there is variation and progression as time goes by. In a good class, you will feel yourself improve.

After a few weeks, you should be feeling changes in your body – maybe more flexibility, maybe better control of your movements, maybe more strength. This matters more than whether it’s a Yoga or a Pilates class, or some other kind of exercise class.

Why do we need ‘exercise’ anyway?

Most people these days are, unfortunately, too inactive. We sit at desks, on sofas, in cars, in cafes, at our kitchen tables. Take a moment to add up how much time you spend sitting, on an average day.  It’s probably several hours. A lot of people spend more time sitting down than anything else.

The variety of movements we do is restricted.  As a child, did you run and climb and roll on the ground and ride a bike? Did you play skipping or hide-and-seek or tag? At school was there organised games or gym?

So nowadays, how many different sorts of movement do you do in your typical day?

Our bodies need movement – we need a lot of fairly gentle movement (about walking pace) and a bit of more strenuous movement and a variety of movements (stretching, reaching etc). This keeps us supple and active and also benefits the cardiovascular system, digestive system, in fact all our systems!

Can exercise be a bad thing?

Often people who come for Osteopathy treatment have a lifestyle which is too sedentary and then includes exercise such as full-on gym sessions or running.  The trouble is that the transition from being desk-bound all day every day to strenuous exercise is too drastic.  We need a whole variety of movement and degrees of intensity to ease the body into activity. We need little-and-often movement activity rather than a whole lot of sitting down followed by a 5k run.

In gyms and classes quite often people are struggling a bit and pushing themselves too hard. The “no pain no gain” attitude is actually not helpful.  The best sort of exercise regime is one that is varied and regular and pitched at your level.

So whatever you choose to do, choose what feels good and suits you. Choose a class or gym where you get some individual attention to help you adapt your exercise to your own body and to progress over time.

That might be yoga, or it might be Pilates, or it might be something else. It depends on you.