Fabulous Question, Even More Fabulous Answer!

A Globe reader asks, “What is the difference between working your core, and working abdominal muscles? I think of them as basically the same thing.” 

And WOW, does trainer Kathleen Trotter ever provide a clear, concise and useful answer!  If you’ve ever wondered what your “core” is, what a “core exercise” is, how to explain the difference to your non-Pilates friends, and how core-related work can differ from working just your abdominal muscles, you’ll enjoy this article.

Can Antioxidants Prevent Certain Cancers?

Following on from our previous article concerning the rise in incidences of pancreatic cancer, nutrionist Leslie Beck summarizes the research and findings associated with the role of antioxidants as cancer preventatives.  Click here to read the full article.  Among other findings, Ms Beck notes that:

“Antioxidant nutrients are believed to help guard against pancreatic cancer by neutralizing harmful free radicals. Smoking and type-two diabetes, two risk factors for the cancer, increase free radical production in the body. Antioxidants also reduce ongoing, low-grade inflammation in the body, a process that may play a role in pancreatic cancer.

“While antioxidants appear to reduce pancreatic cancer risk, there’s far stronger evidence for maintaining a healthy weight.”

Pancreatic Cancer: On the Rise?

This month, our Second Wind blog includes a link to an article, “Can Antioxidants Prevent Cancer?”, by Leslie Beck, Registered Dietician and one of Canada’s leading nutrionists.   Ms Beck’s article focuses on pancreatic cancer.  Before visiting that site, let’s first dive into the all-important question:  is the astounding rise in incidence of carcinoma of the pancreas real, or apparent?

Dr. Lawrence S. Krain has determined that the rise is, indeed, real.  The abstract to his article follows:

“An analysis of mortality statistics for the United States and selected countries was undertaken to determine whether there was a real or apparent rise in pancreatic cancer for the period 1910 through 1968. The rise was found to be real and threefold in magnitude when adjustments were made for the aging of the population. Rising percentage of histologic confirmation through time, increasing diagnostic accuracy, and classification change practices were all factors discussed, but discarded, as reasons for the rise. A literature review of real causes or associations for pancreatic cancer was performed and indicated that only the data on industrial carcinogen exposure and cigarette smoking show both the trend and the statistical magnitude of association to consider them as real causes or associations. A broader epidemiological approach is advisable both in considering other experimental associations and in tracing specific chemicals in cigarette smoke and industrial exposure.”  (Journal of Surgical Oncology, V.2:2, pp 115-124, 1970)

And now, on to Ms Beck’s article about the role foods and nutrition can play in preventing certain types of cancer.

The effect of an eight-week Pilates exercise program on body composition in obese women

A study conducted by O. Çakmakçi in Konya, Turkey looked at the effects of Pilates on body mass, waist to hip ratio and waist circumference on 58 sedentary, obese women.  The women were randomly divided into two groups.  Group 1 undertook Pilates training (34 participants), and a control group (27 participants).

The women in Group 1 were assigned to a Pilates training program, one hour per day, four days per week, for the eight week period. The 27 women in the control group did not participate in the training.

All women had their body-mass index (BMI), waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, 4-site skinfold thickness (Biceps, Triceps, Supscapula and Iliac), fat percentage, resting metabolic rate, lean body mass and flexibility assessed before and after the Pilates training program. 

The outcome indicates that eight weeks of Pilates training was found to be effective on weight, BMI, lean body mass, waist-hip ratio, biceps, triceps, fat percentage, basal metabolic rate, and flexibility.  The control group showed no significant differences in the same measures post-intervention.  

Overall, there was a positive effect of modern Pilates mat and ball exercises in reducing obesity, body composition parameters and flexibility at sedentary obese women.

Source:  Çakmakçi, O. (2011). The effect of 8 week pilates exercise on body composition in obese women. Collegium Antropologicum, Vol 35(4), pp. 1045-1050.

Effect of pilates mat exercises and conventional exercise programmes on transversus abdominis and obliquus internus abdominis activity

Researchers D. J. Critchley, Z. Pierson and G. Battersby studied the effects of Pilates training on the transverse abdominis and internal oblique muscles, and found that Pilates training appears to increase transverse abdominis activity, but only when the individual is performing Pilates exercises.

In their Abstract, the authors write that, “Pilates training is said to increase Transversus abdominis (TrA) and Obliquus internus (OI) activation during exercise and functional activities.”  To test this theory, 34 pain-free health club members, with no previous Pilates experience, were randomly assigned to either Pilates mat exercises, or non-Pilates strength training exercises.  The individuals then performed the assigned exercises, unsupervised, twice weekly for eight weeks. 

At the end of the eight-week period, all participants were measured (with ultrasound) for TrA and OI muscle thicknesses pre- and post-training during Pilates exercises (“Imprint”, Hundreds “A” in table-top without neck flexion, and Hundreds “B” in table-top with neck flexion), and functional postures sitting and standing.   The outcome:

  • The Pilates participants had increased TrA thickness in Hundreds A, and decreased OI muscle thickness during “Imprint”. 
  • Strength training participants had greater OI muscle thickness during “Imprint”, Hundreds “A”, and Hundreds “B” than Pilates participants post-intervention.
  • There were no changes in muscle thickness at rest or during functional postures.

The authors conclude that Pilates training appears to increase TrA activity but only when performing Pilates exercises, and that further research is required into Pilates in clinical populations and how to increase deep abdominal activation during functional activities.

Pelvic floor muscle training in female stress urinary incontinence

Researchers Flavia de Oliveira Camargo et al. assessed the effectiveness of muscle training in femal stress urinary incontinence by comparing group training and individual treatment.  Sixty women aged 30 to 75, with stress incontinence, participated.

Both groups experienced significant reductions in urinary leakage, with negative pad tests observed in about 50% of patients in both groups.  There were statistically significant improvements in muscle strength and quality of life regardless of whether the women attended individual or group pelvic floor training sessions.
The Pilates method incorporates pelvic muscle engagement throughout.  This article, published in the International Urogynecology Journal, unscores the effectiveness of pelvic floor strengthening. 

How to answer that question…

Tell a friend or co-worker that you’re heading off to your Pilates class, and chances are they’ll say, “I’ve heard of Pilates, but I don’t really get it.  Why do you do it?”  This folksy wee article summarizes the main benefits of our favourite form of exercise – click here to access it.