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The Transformative Power of Pilates for ME and Long COVID Sufferers

As the world grapples with the long-term effects of illnesses such as long COVID and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), people are increasingly seeking effective ways to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. With today, 12 May, marking ME Awareness Day, what better time to share this with you.

Pilates, a gentle form of exercise that focuses on core strength, flexibility, and mindful movement, has emerged as a promising option for those suffering from these conditions. In this blog post, we will explore how Pilates can help individuals with ME and long COVID find relief and regain control over their lives.

pilates teacher speaks to her client
It's important to be open and honest with your Raise Pilates teacher
Gentle Exercise for Energy Management

Both long COVID and ME are characterised by chronic fatigue, making it difficult for sufferers to engage in regular physical activities. However, maintaining some level of activity is essential for overall health and well-being.

Pilates offers a low-impact, gentle form of exercise that allows individuals with ME and long COVID to maintain their energy levels while gradually improving their fitness. The slow, controlled movements of Pilates can help prevent overexertion, enabling a more sustainable exercise routine.

Strengthening the Respiratory System

Respiratory issues, such as shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, are common lingering symptoms for long COVID patients.

Pilates emphasises proper breathing techniques, which can help improve lung function and increase oxygenation throughout the body. By focusing on diaphragmatic breathing, Pilates can enhance lung capacity, reduce shortness of breath, and ultimately support recovery for long COVID sufferers.

Enhancing Core Stability and Posture

Prolonged periods of inactivity due to long COVID or ME can lead to muscle weakness and poor posture.

Pilates targets the deep muscles of the core, which are essential for maintaining proper spinal alignment and posture. By strengthening these muscles, individuals with long COVID and ME can alleviate pain and discomfort associated with poor posture and prevent further complications.

Promoting Flexibility and Joint Health

Joint pain and stiffness are common complaints among long COVID and ME sufferers.

Pilates incorporates a range of stretching and strengthening exercises that can help improve flexibility and joint mobility. This can lead to reduced pain and inflammation, as well as an increased range of motion, making it easier for patients to perform daily activities.

Supporting Mental Well-being

Living with long COVID or ME can take a significant toll on mental health.

The stress of managing chronic symptoms, along with the potential isolation that comes with these conditions, can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.

Pilates encourages mindfulness and body awareness, which can help individuals develop a sense of control over their bodies and symptoms. Additionally, regular Pilates practice can release endorphins, which are known to improve mood and promote relaxation.

Adaptable for Individual Needs

A key advantage of Pilates is its adaptability.

Pilates exercises can be modified to suit the specific needs and limitations of long COVID and ME patients. For example, individuals with limited mobility can perform Pilates exercises while seated or lying down. Raise Pilates will also provide modifications to ensure that each individual is working at an appropriate intensity level, reducing the risk of overexertion and symptom exacerbation.

If you're considering incorporating Pilates into your symptom management plan, it's essential to follow some guidelines to ensure a safe and effective practice. Below are some steps to help you get started with Pilates for ME and long COVID:

A smiling woman drinks water whilst doing online Pilates
It's often best to practice your Pilates at home or online so that you can conserve your energy
Consult Your GP

Before starting any new exercise program, it's crucial to consult with a medical professional, especially if you have underlying health conditions. They can help determine if Pilates is an appropriate form of exercise for you and provide guidance on how to proceed.

Find a Qualified Instructor

A qualified Pilates instructor with experience working with individuals with long COVID or ME can help tailor the exercises to suit your specific needs and limitations. We can also provide modifications to ensure that you are working at an appropriate intensity level, reducing the risk of overexertion and symptom exacerbation. When searching for a teacher, be sure to ask about their qualifications and experience in working with clients with similar conditions.

Start Slowly and Listen to Your Body

It's essential to start slowly and gradually build up the intensity and duration of your Pilates practice. Begin with shorter sessions, focusing on mastering the basic principles of Pilates, such as alignment, breathing, and core engagement. Pay close attention to your body's signals and modify the exercises as needed to accommodate your energy levels and physical limitations.

Incorporate Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery are vital components of managing ME and long COVID symptoms. Ensure that you are allowing your body ample time to recover between Pilates sessions, and avoid overexertion. Be mindful of your energy levels and adjust your practice accordingly. Remember, consistency and patience are key to reaping the benefits of Pilates for your condition.

Keep Track of Your Progress

Keeping a journal or log of your Pilates practice can help you monitor your progress and identify patterns in how your body responds to the exercises. Take note of any improvements in your symptoms, energy levels, and overall well-being, as well as any challenges or setbacks you may encounter. This information can be valuable when discussing your progress with your Pilates teacher, and your medical team.

Consider Online or At-Home Practice Options

If attending in-person Pilates classes is not feasible due to your symptoms or other limitations, consider exploring online or at-home practice options. Raise Pilates offers virtual classes or private sessions. Be sure to maintain open communication with your teacher and be honest if you feel that something doesn’t feel right.

To conclude, Pilates can be an excellent addition to your symptom management plan for ME and long COVID. By following these guidelines and working closely with your GP or Consultant and Pilates instructor, you can safely and effectively harness the transformative power of Pilates to improve your overall health and well-being. If you would like to trial an online 30 minute free of charge, or if you are in Kingston or Surbiton, Raise Pilates offers classes in your home. Contact us to discuss your requirements and let’s get you started!

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