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I've been doing Pilates for over 20 years. I loved the workout as a teenager, but it's been even more impactful at 41.

Jennifer Barton Packer   

I've been doing Pilates for over 20 years. I loved the workout as a teenager, but it's been even more impactful at 41.
  • I've been doing Pilates exercises for 20 years and love how it's strengthened my core and glutes.
  • I returned to Pilates workouts after having each of my kids and a knee surgery.

When I was a teenager training at ballet school in the 90s, I started doing Pilates on the reformer and Cadillac machines.

In the years since then, Pilates exercises have gained popularity among fitness enthusiasts and even celebrities like Meghan Markle and Jennifer Aniston.

Pilates has been the one exercise I always return to, even after moving to another country, sustaining multiple injuries, and giving birth four times.

Here's why I still love the effective workout as a 41-year-old.

Pilates makes me feel connected to my body in the best way

Years of ballet dancing and staring at myself in mirrors made me overly self-critical and obsessed with the things my body was doing wrong. When I started Pilates, I fell in love with the repetition, flow, and periodic buildup of micromovements.

No mirror taunted me at my first Pilates studio, and I appreciated that maintaining the correct posture meant keeping my head down during exercises.

Pilates allowed me to let my body feel things before my inner critic told me I was a failure. Eventually, I learned to be grateful for what I could accomplish and stopped resenting what I struggled with.

It's easy for me to pick Pilates back up after not exercising for a while

Running makes me feel like I'm starting at square one whenever I go a few weeks without training. But Pilates is easy to fall back into, even when I'm not at my strongest.

When I developed knee and hip tendonitis, I saw Pilates as the perfect low-impact, results-oriented workout. The exercises were also gentle enough to do after having my first child at 28.

Pilates is all about isolating different muscles and body parts. I love to feel my body shaking because it's a sign that it's getting stronger, even after an injury.

Although Pilates classes can get expensive, there are ways to keep things affordable

Sometimes, I wake up to my muscles begging me for a reformer class. But spending $40 to use the machine every time I exercise is too expensive for me.

Eventually, I discovered mat-Pilates classes at local libraries and studios. The low-intensity Pilates workouts were affordable and offered similar benefits as reformer exercises.

I learned that I could still perform Pilates moves like the hundred, the teaser, and the clamshell without the added height and resistance of the reformer platform and springs.

Now, I do mat-Pilates workouts from the Peloton app or free online videos on my living-room floor. The at-home mat classes feel like healthy, everyday maintenance.

Pilates helped me recover after major medical events

Over the years, Pilates has helped me to recover from major medical events. For example, the tendonitis I had in my knees as a teen ballerina eventually led to a torn meniscus in my 30s.

After having surgery, I struggled to stand without my knee buckling and turned to mat Pilates to help regain my strength.

Pilates' emphasis on core strength and stability also helped me get back into an exercise routine after having each of my first three kids. The workouts strengthened my core and glutes, which were particularly weak post-childbirth.

I also developed pelvic-floor issues after having my fourth child, so I began attending regular Pilates classes at Four Sides London. The studio was staffed with women's-health physical therapists who helped rebuild my stomach muscles and relax my pelvic floor.

With or without an injury, Pilates exercises have been the one constant workout in my life. They've stuck with me for 20 years, and I plan to continue this workout no matter what life throws at me.

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