How Pilates can boost your immunity

20 April 2017 by
First published: 20 September 2016

Want to avoid the flu this winter? Find out how Pilates can boost your immunity. As winter approaches, many of us find ourselves buying lifetime supplies of tissues, Strepsils and paracetamol to deal with the annual spread of the common cold. Your body’s immunity is usually lower during this time of year as viruses can last longer in cold, dry air, so they also spread at a faster rate. On top of that, our bodies have less access to certain vitamins than at other times of the year, such as a lack of vitamin D from little sun exposure. Fancy avoiding the sniffles this year with a healthy dose of exercise? Learn how Pilates can boost your immunity.

Practising Pilates on a regular basis can be extremely beneficial for your immune system, as Lynne Robinson, Pilates guru and founder of Body Control Pilates,. found out throughout the two decades that she’s spent teaching it:

‘In the 22 years I’ve been teaching, I can count on one hand the number of sessions I’ve missed through illness. Even if I feel myself ‘getting’ a cold I manage to shake it off easily! Pilates has given me real resilience. At 62, I’ve never felt fitter!’

Pilates has long been known to improve your posture, balance, muscle tone and the mobility of your joints. However, Pilates exercises can also help to make your lymphatic and respiratory systems more efficient, which in turn supports your immune system. Lynne, whose book Pilates for Life teaches readers how Pilates can tackle a number of everyday health problems, explained the science behind the health benefits of the hugely popular exercise class.

As you rhythmically move your body in a Pilates class, your blood flow and lymph flow are stimulated. This allows the lymphatic system, our body’s waste disposal system, to flush out toxins and then return the lymph to the bloodstream all clean and healthy, which definitely contributes towards a healthier body overall.

Breathing properly is an important aspect of Pilates that can boost your immunity. Many of us breathe far too shallowly, so we’re told during Pilates to take deep breaths as we inhale and exhale. When standing or sitting tall, you must create space for your ribs to expand by breathing wide and deep into your back and sides. This will maximise your lung capacity, helping your respiratory system to work more efficiently.

One way to improve your breathing technique during Pilates is by using a scarf or stretch band. Lynne described how to use this piece of equipment to refine your breathing:

‘Sit or stand tall and wrap a scarf or stretch band around the lower part of your ribs, crossing it over at the front. Hold the opposite ends of the scarf and gently pull it tight.

As you breathe in, focus on the back and sides of the ribcage where your lungs are located. Your lungs will expand and widen the walls of your ribcage. You should feel the scarf tightening as your ribs expand. Try to breathe in through your nose and keep your shoulders relaxed.

‘As you breathe out, feel the air being pushed out fully as if from the very bottom of your lungs. Do not puff your cheeks or purse your lips, as this will tense the neck, jaw and face and waste energy. Breathe in for up to a count of five and out fully for up to a count of five.’

Becoming more familiar with the movements of Pilates and breathing techniques can give you the boost you need to protect your body against infection during winter. No one wants to be that person who’s constantly coughing and sneezing all over the place – so make sure that isn’t you!

Pilates for Life by Lynne Robinson, founder of Body Control Pilates. is £18.50.