Pilates is more than just core strength and flexibility training. It can provide a whole host of mental health benefits, including helping those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder to ease their symptoms over the winter period.
Christmas has been a time of joy and celebration for many but, for some, it can be a low and lonely time.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect 1 in 15 people in the UK and the symptoms can be particularly severe during winter months.
The exact causes of SAD are still unknown. However, it is thought that the shorter days and low light levels during the winter months are to blame for many of the symptoms associated with SAD.
How Pilates Can Help SAD Sufferers
Pilates can offer a helping hand to people struggling with SAD.
Daily exercise has been proven to help manage symptoms of depression and anxiety and many people that suffer from SAD choose to incorporate exercises such as pilates or yoga into their daily routines to help combat their symptoms.
The very nature of pilates affords the practitioner time to relax and focus solely on the task at hand.
Each move requires concentration and control in order be carried out correctly, as such the mind must be focused completely on each movement for the duration of a pilates session or workout.
Those that suffer from SAD often cite problems with concentration and an inability to carry out everyday tasks without becoming distracted. Practising pilates for 30 minutes every day could help those struggling with these symptoms to refocus their mind and mentally reset during that short period of exercise.
Christmas, in particular, can be an extremely stressful time for SAD sufferers. The change in routine, the added stress of family gatherings, and all the other Christmas trimmings can exacerbate symptoms, particularly for those prone to anxiety and panic attacks.
Over time, pilates has the ability to help train and rejuvenate the mind, in a similar way to meditation. Those that struggle with SAD could utilise their pilates practice over the Christmas period as a time for mental and emotional respite: an escape from the increased pressures and stressors of the season and a time to regain some control in order to make room for enjoyment.
Stretch Away Negative Thoughts This Winter
Even if you don’t suffer from SAD, many people can still be affected by the change in seasons.
As the days grow shorter, lots of us find ourselves going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark too. Lots of us veer towards a period of hibernation, withdrawing from the cold outside, staying indoors for longer periods of time and cancelling social arrangements. All of this can have a negative effect on our mood and wreak havoc on our emotions.
Incorporating a few short pilates or simple stretching sessions into your weekly routine could help you to relax and reconnect with your thoughts and emotions during the winter months.
NOTE: The severity of SAD symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and each individual will have their own ways of coping with and managing the condition. If you are struggling to cope this Christmas and think that you may be suffering from depression or SAD, you might find it helpful to talk to your GP. Alternatively, you can visit the NHS choices SAD page for more information about seeking advice/treatment.
Sharon Morrow is a Certified Health & Fitness Coach and Body Transformation Expert with a passion for Pilates. She is the owner of New Dimensions Fitness studio in Northampton and proud founder of their “fitfam” community: a positive group of like-minded individuals on a journey towards better physical health, better mental health, and stronger self-belief. Sharon firmly believes that health and fitness does not have a destination. Rather, it’s an endless journey with highs and lows along the way, where success comes from taking the right road, being proactive, and surrounding yourself with people who lift and inspire you each day.