Living Within Your Means
Parshat Chukat: Miriam the Prophetess

Pilates: A Central Role in Cardiac Rehabilitation

Pilates and heart
The distinguishing characteristic of the Pilates system of exercise is its requirement of steady and controlled breathing. This is an integral part of the Joseph Pilates concept of "contrology" - the science and art of coordinated body-mind-spirit development through natural movements. Inasmuch, Pilates moderates the strain, jerkiness an anaerobic extremes that are frequently associated with such western forms of strength-oriented exercise as sprinting, weightlifting and plyometrics while incorporating the calm, control and concentration that characterize the eastern approach to exercise, as seen in such forms as Yoga and Tai Chi. The result is the best of both worlds:  Strength development and coordination enhanced with power and grace.

As a rabbi, lecturer and spiritual guide who doubles as a fitness instructor and health coach, my life came to a dramatic halt exactly one year ago. After having performed a high-intensity interval kettlebell workout, I had apparently thrown my then-67-year-old heart into arrhythmia. A few days later, during wind sprints at maximum effort, my heart rate was clocking an alarming 215-220! I decided to have a stress test performed as soon as I could get an appointment at the sports cardiologist. The cardiologist didn't even complete the test; he called an ambulance and rushed me to the hospital. There, after a series of tests and chemical attempts to restore my heart's normal rhythm, I was informed that I have atrial fibrillation and that I'd have to be treated with Coumadin (warfarin) followed by electric cardioversion.

Having received vital info on the dangers of the conventional AFib treatment protocol from Racheli Reckles, my only hope for returning to a normal lifestyle was to opt for a natural remedy. With the blessing of my own rabbi and spiritual guide Rav Shalom Arush shlit'a, I consulted a chiropractor who is also a fitness and naturopathic specialist. He gave me iodine to strengthen my thyroid gland, magnesium for the heart and Ashwagandha for my adrenal gland. Together with a few adjustments to my diet, I was feeling much better. And, for fitness, he suggested Pilates.

The benefits of Pilates are enormous in recovering from atrial fibrillation. Experimenting on myself with careful monitoring, I compared the result of an intensive 30-minute Pilates routine that included 26 exercises to a resistance routine that included 4 circuits of deadlifts, goblet squats, renegade pushups and weighted lunges whereas each exercise was performed at weights that enabled me to do ten reps in order to avoid straining my heart and pushing myself into anaerobic mode. In addition to the superior overall post-workout feeling of the Pilates routine, the results – which repeated themselves several times, were dramatic as we see in the following table:



Resistance Routine

Total Time[1]

30 minutes

30 minutes

Kcal burned



HR (heart-rate) Average



HR (heart-rate) Max



In/Out zone[2] (minutes)

28 / 2

5 / 25

The above table clearly shows how the Pilates routine was so much gentler to my body, yet without sacrificing training effectiveness. After the Pilates routine, my core felt stronger and my posture dramatically improved. In addition, I felt more invigorated than after the resistance routine. With Pilates, there's virtually no chance of over-training, which is my dangerous athletic evil inclination and that of many peak-performance-seeking athletes. Consequently, as I have proven to myself, I would surely incorporate Pilates as the prime and preferred form of exercise in any cardiac rehabilitation program.

Even if your heart is 100% healthy, do yourself a favor and enroll in a Pilates course. It will do wonders for your posture and your core strength, and it's gentle on the body. You won't burn as many calories as you do in high-intensity training, but your injury level will drop to zilch. My blessings for your good health!

Lazer Brody, CPT, CHC


[1] Includes warmup and cooldown for resistance routine; warmup and cooldown were an intrinsic part of Pilates routine

[2] The InZone = my target zone of 55-80% HR Max, OutZone = >80% HR Max  


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

lea moore

I am so glad you are better and have found an alternate way to still be in shape and healthy. I suffer from ehylers danlos and am not allowed to stretch. suggestions of an alternative for me?


Lea, please look into Prolozone Therapy. It's an injection of ozone into the problem area and it's said that not only is it painless, but it has greatly reduced joint pain and dislocation. There's a video on youtube by Dr. Ross Hauser. I hope this helps, and please keep in touch! -Racheli

The comments to this entry are closed.