Here's why barre is one of the best ways to enhance flexibility and improve balance

Everything from Pilates to sandbag workouts have been touted as the ideal exercise for office-bound people, due to their focus on postural strength. But ballet barre is one of the best ways to enhance flexibility and improve balance.

Barre was developed in the 1950s by German dancer Lotte Berk, who, after injuring her back, came up with the idea to combine her dance conditioning with rehabilitative therapy.

The difference between barre and a typical strength training class is that practitioners perform one-inch isometric contractions—with these tiny increments powerful enough to fire up the muscle and make it more elastic, but not too big to tear it.

Ella Jotie, co-founder, Barre Fitness, says barre’s benefit for office workers who spend all their time hunched over a desk is that it develops a strong neutral spine and teaches them to move instinctively from their core. “Plus, it’s a completely different exercise experience from what you find in big-box gyms and boutique fitness clubs.”

Jotie, whose Vancouver-based business was the first of its kind in Canada when it was launched in 2010 and will soon expand beyond its current five locations throughout Metro Vancouver, explains: "In barre, you focus on exhausting the auxiliary muscles that support your core, and this low-impact routine literally causes you to feel them burning and shaking.”

Jotie encourages those who are skeptical about the efficacy of barre to visit her website. “It contains a video workout library so you can try a few exercises at home,” she says. “If you do the movements properly, I guarantee the resulting effects will make you a barre enthusiast.”