If you’re noticing previously clean-shaven faces now sporting a mustache (and it’s November) then it’s likely for Movember, the annual event that raises awareness of top male health concerns. Movember is the leading charity of men’s health that grew out of Australia to over 20 countries worldwide and has raised $994 million USD. Their aim is to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25% come 2030. In their own words, “We exist to help men live happier, healthier, longer lives - this is what drives every single one of our 1,250 men’s health projects.”
The essence of Pilates coincides with this mandate as Joseph Pilates is famous for writing “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” Pilates Anytime instructor Benjamin Degenhardt admittingly piggybacks off this and says, “Pilates is the first requisite of physical fitness” as Pilates really isn’t about a certain physique or the core. Benjamin correctly adds, “it’s about training our bodies to unlock its self-healing powers and function properly in all of its systems. When you read about Joseph Pilates’ philosophies, you don’t hear him talk about punishing exercise to trim or tighten, instead, he talked about your circulation, your brain, your breathing, your gut (digestive system), your control, and your health. He was an outspoken advocate for helping people understand their bodies and their own health, and the Pilates method is a living and timeless expression of that.”
Movember focuses on 3 of the highest health concerns for men:
Movember strives for accessibility of resources and education, not only as a preventative measure but as a higher standard for quality of life post-treatment/surgery. One of their biggest advocacies is to ‘move more’. The idea of Movember is one that is dear to our hearts as we’ve all personally been affected by the health concerns of the men in our lives including many of our dear colleagues in the Pilates community.
Although there is a false narrative that Pilates is for women and/or dancers, let’s not forget the origins of Pilates, created by a man for men. The general consensus derived from correspondences with male Pilates instructors is that Pilates meets all of the requirements for a foundation of well-being. Pilates enables men to do basically anything better. John Garey, a self-confessed fitness nerd, continues his cross-training and sees Pilates as a unique modality that supports and encourages both strength and flexibility. Chris Robinson advocates Pilates as a viable modality that can be a stand-alone training system. Ken Gilbert wisely adds, “moving in the body from isolation of body parts to integration of systemic (whole-body) commitment is the foundation of men’s well-being-- physically, mentally, emotionally and in spirit. Body awareness and alignment are crucial for a healthy connection to self - to breathe and move better.”
Unchecked, prostate cancer rates will double over the next 15 years.*
Strengthening the pelvic floor has always been associated with Pilates, most notably for women, however, men have pelvic floors too! The pelvic floor stabilizes the pelvis and supports the organs, like the prostate. Prostate cancer treatment can result in erectile dysfunction and/or incontinence and pelvic floor strengthening is recommended before and after treatment. However, why wait for a diagnosis? Overall optimal health; alignment and uniformly strengthening the whole body is a great way to combat any illness.
Globally, testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men aged 15-39.*
Pilates Anytime instructor Ken Gilbert writes, “Pilates supports a man’s journey into health and well-being from systemic awareness, sensing the connections between body and mind. When a man has self-awareness he will become sensitive to his entire body’s health: taking time to self-examine the testes for any abnormalities.”
One man dies from suicide every minute of every day around the globe.*
The principles (inherent to Pilates) of control, focus, breath, and precision enable a mind, body, and spirit connection; equaling clarity and vitality. John Garey has been doing Pilates for 25+ years and finds the focus on movement and breath facilitates an ability to let go of stress, anger, and fear bringing about a sense of calm and focus.
It’s worth noting that regardless of the times we’re in, the increasing acceptance of an individual (regardless of gender) choosing their ‘roles’ in life, there is still a stigma about men having to ‘keep it together’, provide & protect, ‘be the man of the house’, not cry and generally tough anything out, usually on their own. The fact that suicide rates are so high amongst men should be an alarming wake-up call for the need for additional resources for mental health and depression and room for listening, along with discussions.
As we never know what may be going on in someone’s life or the battles they are facing, it may come as a surprise to learn about their adversity. However, it should never come as a surprise how healing Pilates and movement is, or take for granted that ‘just exercising’ has profound effects on the psyche and literally can change and save lives. Michael King notes how important Pilates is and the role it took in helping him overcome stage 3 cancer. His classes, steeped in technique and form, have a whimsical and creative flair. If anything, his experience has only strengthened his resolve in his educational efforts and outreach of the Pilates method.
Should men only be doing Pilates?
Every instructor agrees that Pilates is not an either/or proposal and can be incorporated in numerous ways. Benjamin Degenhardt adds “it’s about understanding that without movement literacy and control, which Pilates excels at cultivating, exercise can quickly become meaningless and punishing.”
Martin Reid wittingly shares “Pilates is like meeting the woman or man of your dreams at a point in life when everything is already going just fine. It completes you. It challenges you in a way that makes you better. It makes you laugh. It may make you cry, but overall, your life is enriched by its entry into your life. How is that? I have not met a man that has not seen the potential of Pilates to make their workouts and their life better.”
When you visit Movember’s website, there are numerous ways to participate other than the most famous and what started it all; growing a mustache. There are tons of resources and how to’s including how to ask for sponsorship, plan an event, newsletter templates, and even fun rules and guidelines for growing a mustache, most notably to “conduct himself like a true gentleman.”
In the past Pilates studios have hosted classes and workshops for men and/or classes with proceeds going to the cause. Studios and teachers can get creative and have fun as they encourage more men to try Pilates and raise awareness around men’s health.
In the benevolent words of Ken Gilbert, “The intent of Pilates is to keep the body and mind working together, rather than at odds. Working with the body through breath connection allows for a man to become personally engaged in his body’s movement and potential – Pilates provides this opportunity for everybody; especially men.”*stats from Movember’s website
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