Healthy foods to help boost the immune system

Facts (and Myths) about Boosting the Immune System

By Sumathi Reddy,

As the new coronavirus continues to spread across the country, having an optimally functioning immune system is more important than ever.

Medical professionals say it is important not to rush to buy supplements and vitamins that promise to enhance your immune system; there isn’t much evidence that such products do any good. Instead, they say, stick with the more mundane, but proven, approaches:

• Keep your stress levels down. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle, of course: The more you stress about the virus, the more likely you are to suffer from it. “Stress can certainly hurt your immune system,” says Morgan Katz, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University. “Do not panic, try to minimize stress.”

Andrew Diamond, chief medical officer of One Medical, a nationwide network of primary-care providers, says the stress hormone cortisol turns off cells in your immune system. He recommends engaging in activities that people find relaxing, such as meditation.

• Exercise. Low- and moderate-intensity exercise naturally lowers cortisol levels and helps with immune-system function, says Dr. Diamond. One Medical recommends 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. If you’re apprehensive about germs in the gym, walk or run outside.

But it is important not to go overboard. A recent study found high-performance athletes have an increased risk of infection, says Elizabeth Bradley, medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine. “Exercise helps boost the immune system, but we have to be careful not to overexercise because it can weaken your immune system,” she says.

• Get adequate sleep. For adults, that means getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Children should get more, depending on their age.

• Make sure your vaccines are up-to-date, especially the flu vaccine.

• Eat plenty of plain yogurt every day. “It’s really an easy way to boost your probiotics and help support your microbiome,” Dr. Katz says. “It helps to support the good bacteria that live in your body, which help to fight bad bacteria or viruses.”

Dr. Katz also suggests avoiding antibiotics unless you must take them because they deplete the good bacteria in the system, leaving you more vulnerable to other infections.

Other foods that can help support the microbiome include garlic, onion, ginger, sauerkraut and fermented foods, says Dr. Bradley.

Dr. Bradley recommends eating lots of dark green, leafy vegetables and berries, as well as nuts and seeds, and to minimize foods with sugar and trans fats, which aren’t as nutrient-dense.

Your immune system needs fuel, so avoid ultra low-carbohydrate diets, experts say. In addition, drink lots of water and reduce alcohol consumption, which can disrupt your sleep.

• Stop smoking or vaping. Smokers and those with respiratory disease have a higher rate of serious illness and complications from coronavirus. “Anything that is challenging to your lungs is going to work in the wrong direction,” says Dr. Diamond.

How Pilates Changed My Feelings About Fitness

By Ella Riley-Adams, Jan 7, 2020

Photo from Vogue magazine article of woman before and after pilates

Me before Pilates, and after. Photography by Michael Lisnet, Vogue, October 2006

I quit Equinox, tired of dreading the gym while paying hundreds of dollars for it. My problem wasn’t the place—I’ve started and stopped Blink, Crunch, and ClassPass since moving to New York City—but more a feeling of isolation and occasional intimidation that came with attempting to be a better version of myself, by myself. I craved a new fitness routine and the strength I used to feel in high school, when I was a soccer player and horseback rider with flat abs and toned calves.

I knew the next workout I chose would have to be something I could stick to, one that didn’t trigger my old social anxiety of being the last to finish an exercise in P.E., but still gave me the happy-tired feeling of being physically spent. As it was, I felt like a crumpled version of myself, sometimes literally: I found it so hard to get out of bed in the morning that after hitting snooze seven times, I’d leave the house with sheet marks still on my cheek.

When the founder of the technique, Joseph Pilates, opened his Manhattan studio in 1926, the method gained traction in the dance community before going mainstream in the late ’90s. A low-impact workout that emphasizes core strength, flexibility, and alignment, it has a continued association with the long, lean muscles that dancers display. And despite New York magazine’s 2015 “Pilatespocalypse” story that reported the technique was fading as the boutique fitness market boomed, a quick search of Tribeca shows five Pilates studios in a four-block radius. When high-speed, data-informed workouts are overwhelming us from all sides, perhaps a slower form of fitness feels just right.

I worried I might not be the Pilates type. (I imagined that type to be the aforementioned perfect specimens, or simply a bean-thin woman with matching workout sets for every day of the week.) And, used to team sports or spin, I was skeptical that Pilates would give me the feeling of release I wanted in a workout. Still, I packed my best leggings and made my way to Lisa’s softly lit Union Square space.

In our first session, she introduced me to the equipment: the Cadillac, the Wunda Chair, the Reformer. We started with mat exercises so I could orient myself to the form required for Pilates before working with any straps or seats. I was so used to fitness instruction backed by a soundtrack of dubstep Beyoncé that I feared a more conversational, one-on-one approach would drag on, but as I worked to coordinate my muscles in new ways according to Lisa’s steady instructions, I was surprised at how quickly our hour together passed. It was a meditative way of moving that, Lisa explained, would work from “the inside out.” (I noticed its outward effects, too, as later my legs trembled when I bent down to tie my shoes.)

When Lisa asked how, exactly, I’d like to tone my body, I realized my goals went beyond sculpted arms or a whittled waist. I wanted to pop up faster while surfing and finally address the shoulder ache that plagued me since I became a desk-bound employee. Lisa noted that the versatility of Pilates meant it could work on all of those levels. “You can do it on a restorative level,” she explains, while the performers she works with “do it to keep their stamina and to keep their body looking good, but also to stay in touch with their physicality for their work.” Because Pilates is low-impact, women can do it while pregnant, and Lisa’s clients range from 26 to 84 years old.

Joseph Pilates has a famous quote: “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a whole new body.” I committed to 30 sessions, which broke down to about three times a week over three months. Lisa and I saw each other in the morning before I went to work, which meant I had to change my relationship with the snooze button. But it turned out that meeting an instructor one-on-one had a much greater effect on my accountability than any late fee could. Plus, by the fifth session or so, I started to look forward to Pilates. I didn’t break a sweat in the same way that I would in a HIIT class, but that was part of the appeal: I was able to get a workout that gave me results without feeling anxious that any moment of weakness would make me fall behind.

Every session was varied (the classical method of Pilates involves more than 500 different exercises), shaped around my answer to Lisa’s reliable question: “How is your body doing?” When I was sore after a run, she helped me loosen up. Post-travel, we worked out the imbalance I felt between my shoulders and in my hips after a night spent on a plane. She said that all of her clients that day were coming from traveling. Even if I couldn’t identify what exactly was out of place, Lisa was able to observe any tightness or fatigue and offer opportunities to stretch and strengthen.

I felt different early on. I started to notice which muscles carried me through the day. I felt a greater sense of stability while surfing, but also just while walking up the stairs from the subway. My shoulder pain faded, and a weird collarbone cramp that used to pop up on jogs stopped happening. As I got further into the sessions, my connection to and control over my body increased. I went running in just a sports bra and shorts. (Had I become a Pilates Type??)

By 20 sessions, I did look different. My abs were defined, and my body was longer. My crumpled self had been smoothed. I noticed more space between my head and shoulders, which seemed to have a sharpening effect on my jawline. As for a whole new body? The before and after pictures show more metamorphosis than complete transformation. But committing to more sessions, or any other routine, would be easy: I finally found a workout that made me want to wake up early—and renewed my faith in myself.


Stott Pilates student uses a magic ring for workout. Find these and other pilates props at Bern Pilates new bern nc.

STOTT and Classical Pilates – What’s the Difference?

Bern Pilates is a fully equipped STOTT Pilates studio in New Bern, NC, and our clients often ask us about the differences between the many methods of Pilates that exist today.  While there are several different methods being practiced, for our purposes here, we will focus on STOTT Pilates versus Classical Pilates.  Although each derives from Joseph Pilates’ original method which he brought to America in 1923, there are some subtle but important differences between the two.

To begin with, let’s review exactly what Pilates is. Joe’s fundamental belief was that to possess optimal physical health, one must be in a state of excellent mental health, and vice versa, which is why the Pilates method is both a physical and mental workout. His method focuses on correct physical alignment, control, breathing, flowing movement, and concentration.  In fact, Pilates originally called his method Contrology, the science of control, and defined it as a way to thoroughly unite the body, mind and spirit.

In the practice of Pilates, movements focus on technique and control over repetition. Pilates believed that the core was the “powerhouse” of the body; thus, the core is generally the main focus of most Pilates movements. The core encompasses everything from your abdominal muscles to your back muscles to your pelvic floor.

Since the Pilates method was developed in Germany in the early 20th century, there have been almost 100 years of research and modification to the technique.  Many Pilates purists believe that it should still be taught without variation or modification, just as Joe Pilates himself taught it.  Others, such as Moira Stott take a different approach. Stott, as well as other proponents of a modernized version of Pilates still adhere to the basic principles of the method which include breathing, concentration and fluidity of movement.

STOTT Pilates is a contemporary version of the Classical Pilates method.  Moira Stott and Lindsay Merrithew worked with a team of physical therapists and sports medicine and fitness professionals spent years refining the Classical method to incorporate the modern principles of exercise science and spinal rehabilitation.  STOTT Pilates is one of the safest and most effective methods available, and it is regularly used for rehab and prenatal clients, athletes and dancers. Both STOTT and Classical Pilates teach precise and controlled movements.  It is the sequencing of exercises, the postural alignment, and the addition of props are the major differences between the two methods.

In general, STOTT Pilates encourages a more neutral position of the axial skeleton, allowing the muscles to lie evenly on both sides of the body, thus leading to balance between the agonist and antagonist and between strength and flexibility.  Classical Pilates often emphasizes an imprinted position Both methods, of course, must take into account the physical ability of the student.  Every movement, every concept, every variation can be manipulated to suit the particular individual.

STOTT Pilates often incorporates many different props – everybody’s favorite magic ring, weights, bands – to enhance the exercises during practice.  While Classical Pilates does not use these tools, one reason may be that they weren’t available to Joe when he was developing the method.  If he were practicing Pilates today, he may very well be using them himself because, of course, he wanted to give students the best possible training and most benefit from their own practice.

Both the STOTT and Classical Pilates methods have strict qualifications for instructors. Both methods require candidates to apprentice with a certified instructor from their respective methods. For a time, there were only a limited number of Classical Pilates instructors in North America. Candidates had to travel to New York City to complete their certification. In the meantime, Stott forged an affiliation with IDEA Health & Fitness Association and other fitness professionals, and potential certification candidates were able to learn about the technique and bring the method to all parts of the globe. As such, Stott is at least partially responsible for the growing popularity of the Pilates method.

Most current methods of Pilates, including STOTT, have studied the Pilates method to adapt it to evolve with the changes in the way that humans live their lives and the progressions made in research.  The bottom line is that no matter the version of the Pilates Method, it should focus on the abilities of the student, not the method itself.  The ultimate goal of any Pilates practice is to strengthen the core, create full body control and flexibility by performing low repetitions of a sequence of exercises that will strengthen the muscles, and create a strong mind, body connection to achieve optimal physical and mental health.




Bern Pilates in New Bern NC

12 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Pilates for your Peace of Mind

There are 12 scientifically proven benefits of Pilates for your peace of mind, making it clear that Pilates is more than just a workout. Any person who’s been doing it for at least a couple of months knows that Pilates doesn’t only sculpt your body, but it also clears your mind and gives you energy and inner serenity. But the most amazing part happens when students start seeing changes not only in their bodies but also in their minds, in their emotions and in their lives altogether. >>READ MORE


Pilates: It’s Not Just for Girls

Football player Martellus BennettPilates may have gotten the reputation of being a girly workout, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates, and if you look around, you’ll see that some of the manliest men incorporate Pilates into their workouts on a regular basis, either as their primary method of strength training or to complement their regular weight training.

Professional football franchises like the Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers have added Pilates to their training programs. Pilates can improve flexibility, balance and strength. It encourages a “mind-body connection,” which makes it imperative that the student use imagery and concentration to ensure the movements are initiating from the right place. Understanding the movement in relation to the body also helps to prevent injury, which is crucial for professional athletes. As Joseph Pilates said of his Pilates method “…it [the Reformer] resists your movements in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it.”

In addition, Pilates emphasizes elongating the muscles and creating space between the joints, while simultaneously building stability. Increased range of motion also helps prevent injury and promotes career longevity. Especially for those in highly mobile positions, Pilates can facilitate more efficient movement on the field. In an interview with Pilates Style, Martellus Bennett, former Chicago Bears tight end, noted that the demands of his position took a toll on his body, especially his joints and lower back. Bennett was convinced of Pilates’ benefits after one session and practiced up to five times a week while he was playing football. He said, “I can lift 500 pounds, but in a Pilates session, there’s always some different type of motion that’s hard for me to do. That’s what is so great about it.”

Football is one of today’s most challenging sports, and if its professionals see the benefits of Pilates in their performance, it is definitely a good work out for everyone!


Diet for Pilates

Your Diet when Practicing Pilates

This article from gives a great overview of best diet choices when practicing Pilates.

Pilates involves a lot of work on the core and mat. Many people wonder what and when to eat before doing Pilates exercises. There is no special diet for Pilates. However, there are a few things to consider about food choices as you prepare for your workout.

When and How Much to Eat Before a Pilates Session

Since there is so much emphasis in Pilates on using your abdominal muscles, you will want to have a fairly empty stomach. Your core will be fully engaged and it’s best that you have eaten only lightly at your last meal. You will probably tolerate it best to have a small snack an hour or two before your class.

Another consideration is that you need to eat so you have good energy for your workout. If you skip breakfast or it’s been too many hours since you’ve eaten, you may run out of energy in the middle of your workout. It’s best to eat at least a light snack.

Diet Choices – Complex Carbs & Protein

To fully take advantage of Pilates as a mind/body fitness method, you will want to take a look at what kinds of foods keep you feeling the most balanced. Avoid anything that will make you gassy or you know will give you a queasy stomach.

Complex carbohydrates and lean proteins, with a little high-quality fat, are good choices for a pre-Pilates meal as they sustain energy better than simple carbs or sugary things. A protein shake that uses fruit can be a convenient, light choice. You can adjust the portion size to suit you. Yogurt with fruit or a small portion of oatmeal can provide complex carbohydrates. Peanut butter on whole grain bread or on fruit in another quick option with complex carbs and protein.

Drinking Before and During Pilates

Pilates is light to moderate intensity exercise and does not usually create a need for special sports drinks, but you will want to be hydrated. Water is always a good choice. So it isn’t sloshing in your stomach, drink a large glass of water 90 minutes to an hour before class. Your body will have time to eliminate the extra and you’ll start off well-hydrated. Have a bottle available to sip during class when you feel thirsty.

What to Eat After Pilates

You want to make sure your body has enough of the nutrients it will need to strengthen your muscles and replenish your energy. Have another protein smoothie after class or light snack that includes protein as well as carbohydrate.

Your diet between workouts will depend on whether you have a goal of weight loss or you simply want to eat what is best for your body. While you can use Pilates plus cardio exercise as part of a fat-burning workout program, experts note that few people lose weight from exercise alone. You will need to work on reducing your calorie intake overall.
Doing Pilates can inspire you to fuel your body better with nutritious food while eliminating empty calories. That can have health benefits whether you wish to lose weight or not. Choose a diet that follows the current U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
Pilates with feet in straps.

Which Pilates Method is Best, Mat or Reformer?

The first time in any fitness class can be a bit intimidating, but, for some, Pilates can appear to be complicated and overwhelming. This could be due to the Reformer and its straps and springs or the dozens of exercise names and terms of which you’ve never heard. Don’t let uncertainty keep you away from the Pilates experience—it offers so many benefits to your body no matter your fitness background or age. Pilates will improve your posture, help you focus on body alignment, and give you an amazing core workout.

Since Pilates mat workouts and Reformer workouts provide similar benefits, it’s no wonder newbies (and even regular Pilates students) are often confused about which form is best for their fitness goals and abilities.

Working against resistance is essential to the 500 classical Pilates exercises, which are designed to train the body’s “powerhouse:” The abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks. But you can accomplish that using either a mat, where your own body weight creates resistance, or a Reformer, where pulleys and springs create resistance. In fact, the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness published a 2016 study that confirmed eight weeks of Pilates classes improved abdominal endurance, flexibility, and balance.

Reformer Classes

The Reformer’s many attachments increase the range of modifications that can be made to the exercises and allow additional exercises beyond what can be done on a mat. Reformer equipment is built with a sliding carriage and adjustable springs to regulate tension and resistance. Cables, bars, straps, and pulleys allow exercises to be performed from a variety of positions, even standing. The resistance created by the pulley and spring system can provide a more challenging workout than mat classes. It may also produce visible results sooner: Arm, leg, and abdominal muscles can look firm and defined within a dozen or so regular sessions.

The Reformer’s many attachments increase the range of modifications that can be made to the exercises and allow additional exercises beyond what can be done on a mat. This capability, combined with the support afforded by the resistance the machine provides, allows those with limited range of movement or injuries to safely complete modified exercises. The Reformer works to lengthen while strengthening the muscles, rather than building bulk, making it an effective, non-impact stretching and toning program safe for the joints.

“Pilates on a Reformer bed really helps target those smaller muscle groups, so you form long, lean, and toned muscles,” says Maureen Rose, STOTT PILATES certified instructor and owner of Bern Pilates. “Your workout can be designed to target a specific area or the entire body.”

Reformer Pilates is also great for rehabilitation purposes because the exercises can be done lying down. For example, someone who’s had knee surgery or a knee injury will be able to strengthen leg muscles through a larger range of motion using a lighter resistance than their own body weight—speeding up recovery through controlled movement. Someone with scoliosis may find it difficult to work on the mat, but they can increase their range of motion safely and effectively on the Reformer.

Mat Work

Mat work can be a great starting point because of its emphasis on learning how to control your muscles and get in tune with your body. Exercises like the 100s where straight legs are lifted off the ground and the upper body curls off the floor for an arm-pumping series of inhales and exhales, warms your body and engages your core muscles. Other mat exercises, like the teaser or rolling like a ball, are practiced by beginners and devotees alike to work the entire body.

While doing Pilates on a mat instead of a reformer may not seem as fun or challenging, many students see improved strength, posture, agility, and flexibility—including toned muscles—in just a few weeks. Advanced mat classes will use your body for support meaning more attention and effort is required when working without the assistance or support of the Reformer. So, what does that mean? Mat classes offer a greater challenge for your core muscles.

The Verdict

Creator Joseph Pilates never intended for mat work or the Reformer to stand alone. His approach was integrative—combining mat and Reformer for the best overall program to provide the full benefits offered by Pilates. You really can’t go wrong no matter the method you choose, but keep in mind what you learn on one informs your body on the other. Challenge yourself to explore new exercises on the mat or try a Reformer class. You may just find it opens up your body in a whole new way.

Bern Pilates is a fully equipped STOTT PILATES Studio. We offer private, semi-private, and group Pilates sessions. The studio features state-of-the-art MERRITHEW equipment—reformers, cadillac, stability chairs and barrels—which allows our instructors to tailor a program that benefits individuals regardless of their activity level and fitness goals.

We welcome all fitness levels, from beginners to seasoned athletes and everyone in between. Our mission is to promote a strong mind and body connection all while developing long, lean muscles, core strength, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility in a safe environment. Call (252) 514-4430 or visit us online at for more information and class schedules.

(Sources: Pilates Method Alliance; MBG Collective; USA Today; Huffington Post; and Self Magazine.)

The Real Truth about what Pilates can do for You

originally posted by REV Pilates Gym in Fairfax, VA

Thinking of trying Pilates? There is a ton of talk out there about this magical practice – and what it can and can’t do. Will it make you taller? Is it like yoga? Is it mostly stretching? Let’s break down the talk and get to the truth.

Myth 1: Pilates is for Women only.

I hear this constantly. Let’s set the record straight – Joseph Pilates (a man) initially created the workout for men (soldiers in fact). Is it grunting, weight lifting or Crossfit? No. Is it strength combined with stretch? Yes. The act of stretching doesn’t appeal to as many men as women, and therefore more women tend to practice than men. But, it is a full body workout. Just about every pro athlete practices Pilates. If that isn’t masculine enough for you, I don’t know what is.

Myth 2: Pilates Is a Good Way to Lose Weight.Pilates improves posture

No Pilates studio has ever hosted the Biggest Loser competition. That’s because it’s not interval training, cardio or heavy weight lifting – which is more widely associated with weight loss. Pilates will create muscle tone. And lean muscle burns calories during rest, so truly it can help you shed some unwanted pounds. Not a lot, but some. Pilates does create a toning effect. The combination of stretch and strength elongates the muscles – making them toned, pliable and resistant to injury. Plus, the improvements to posture visually improve your body shape. Translation: Pilates creates muscle tone, helps whittle your middle (a little bit), improves posture, prevents injury and keeps you looking and feeling long and lean.

Myth 3: Pilates is just like Yoga.

Yoga v. Pilates

Pilates and Yoga are like cousins. They’re part of the same family, but they are quite different. Both are mind-body exercise practices, meaning they focus on breath work and movement with purpose. (Most well executed exercises should be with purpose also, but what I mean is that there is a lot of focus on recruiting the proper muscles, positioning your posture in a specific way, breathing with exertions, etc) However, that’s about where the similarities end. There are so many different flavors of yoga that you’re getting something quite different when you try different styles – Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Yin are just a few – and they are quite different from one another. With Pilates, you will see a consistent thread among all teachers and classes.   Furthermore, when you apply the apparatus to your Pilates practice, you conjure a full body, strength-based workout. Great for osteoporosis prevention and bone density building, the Pilates springs create a weight lifting equivalent that don’t tear muscles.

Myth 4: Pilates Makes you Taller.

Posture Perfect with Pilates

Total fabrication. Pilates instructors aren’t magicians! The apparatus have a traction effect, which gently pull the vertebrae apart, releasing any compression placed upon the discs. The disc compression is what makes a spine “shrink” or contributes towards “slump” posture. When you alleviate this compression, you are able to stand as tall as you were born to stand! For many with poor posture, continued Pilates practice will make you look taller. For everyone else, you will certainly feel taller, but the measuring tape likely won’t change.

Myth 5: Pilates is only for your Abs.

I certainly make the joke that “Pilates” must translate into abdominals in some language, but it is a full body workout. Mat repertoire is far more core-centric than the apparatus, mostly because it’s hard to challenge your appendages without the use of props, i.e. free weights, the ring of fun, etc. The apparatus are loaded with springs and make for a great well-rounded workout for your whole body. The core (abs, back, inner thighs) will stabilize you in every movement, so yes, it is always a core workout. But thanks to the springs, the apparatus will challenge your shoulders, arms, legs and any other part you can think of!

In summary, Pilates is an amazing workout. You can do it anywhere (Pilates mat repertoire) or if you have access to a full studio, it’s even better. The mindful movement of this technique will build strength and flexibility. The main benefits from regular Pilates practice are reduced / avoid chronic pain, increased core strength, improved posture, more flexibility and strength. If these are the goals you’re after, Pilates is for you. And that’s the truth.

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Bern Pilates is a fully equipped STOTT Pilates Studio. We offer private, semi private and group Pilates sessions. For more information, call the studio to sign up for an evaluation and start a class that’s right for you! 252-514-4430.