What Is Pilates?

Pilates is an exercise form that has steadily grown in popularity and is now practiced worldwide; however many are still unsure of what Pilates is. In this article I have put together a few answers to the common questions that I and other medical practitioners get asked.

Pilates is a body conditioning routine that focuses on strengthening and stretching the whole body. It specifically focuses on spinal and pelvic alignment, developing a strong core, breathing and improving posture, co-ordination and balance.


The History of Pilates

Pilates was developed in the early 20th century, by Joseph Pilates, a physical-culturist from Germany. He developed exercises that were intended to strengthen the human body and mind, as he believed the two were interrelated. Initially Pilates was adopted by professional dancers in the US as an effective form of recovery after injury. Over the years the Pilates method has been adapted to the medical knowledge of the present day but many of the main principles are still core to todays method.

Who is Pilates For?

Pilates is suitable for all levels of fitness, all ages, both men and women. All the same principles are covered, balance, posture, co-ordination, strength and flexibility, whether you are a fitness fanatic or you struggle to get out and exercise due to lifestyle or ill health. The exercises are modified to suit the individual, from beginner to advanced level and intensity can be increased over time as the body conditions and adapts to the exercises.

Why Attend Pilates?

"If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If at 60 you are supple and strong then you are young" Joseph Pilates

Injuries can occur from impact such as a fall but they can also occur from poor posture and muscle imbalances. By working on correcting these it can help prevent injury. Some attend as a method of prevention and to keep strong, supple and toned, some to aid recovery from injury, others without injury but with specific fitness goals in mind. Pilates alone isn't effective for weight loss though, it will tone and give a more streamlined appearance but if your main goal is weight loss then it should be combined with aerobic exercise and a healthy diet.

What is the Difference between Pilates and Yoga?

Both Yoga and Pilates focus on developing strength, flexibility, posture, balance and breathing however Pilates tends to focus much more on precise movements to target specific muscles. Yoga also tends to have a more spiritual side that Pilates does not.

Can I Injure Myself doing Pilates?

Pilates is a safe, low-impact form of exercise and injuries are uncommon. Even when injured, Pilates is often used as a method of rehabilitation and recovery. Many of the exercises are used for spinal rehabilitation after a slipped (herniated) disc. If you currently have an injury it is advisable to check with your GP or physiotherapist first.

Pilates Classes or One to One?

Both have their advantages. Group Pilates classes are beneficial if you want to meet others, and a more affordable way of making Pilates a regular routine if you struggle with motivation to exercise at home. It can be a more generalised routine though so if choosing a group class, make sure there are no more than 10 in a class, so that the teacher can still vary an exercise to your individual needs


One to One Pilates is ideal if you have specific needs, goals or health requirements and need an individual routine designed specifically for you. It is also a preference for those who like to have an exercise programme to follow at home.

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