To Sleep Better, Try Pilates
The science: People who report sleep problems are sometimes just having a hard time relaxing, since good sleep is difficult to achieve when you’re stressed and can’t wind down. But there’s a promising fix: Recently published research from Appalachian State University, in Boone, North Carolina, found that practicing Pilates was associated with better snoozing. For the uninitiated, Pilates, developed by fitness pioneer Joseph H. Pilates in the 1920s, is a system of core-strengthening moves done on a mat or an apparatus called a Reformer. Study participants who did Pilates on a mat twice weekly for 75 minutes or three times a week for 50 minutes, for 15 weeks, were less likely to experience troubled sleep. These sleep improvements may be linked to an increased bodily awareness, says Karen Caldwell, Ph.D., the lead researcher of the study. One theory holds that when you’re more in tune with yourself, you’re better able to let go of stress and feel relaxed.
How to put it into practice: Alycea Ungaro, the owner of the Real Pilates Studio, in New York City, suggests that you get started by reading Joseph Pilates’s book, Return to Life Through Contrology ($23, amazon.com). She describes it as the method’s most comprehensive manual. When you’re ready to get moving, try taking mat classes at a gym (Crunch, Gold’s Gym, Life Time Fitness, and others offer them). Classes usually last an hour. For noticeable results, try to go three times a week.