Pilates is not only a popular form of exercise but also a viable complementary therapy for many people.  This intriguing system of exercise (also called the “Pilates method”) was first developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, a physical trainer.  It was originally meant as a method for rehabilitating injured dancers and athletes.

What Does Pilates Involve?

Pilates includes around 500 exercises, all of which work the entire body.  The exercises were inspired by fields as varied as yoga, calisthenics, and ballet.  Pilates is known for its ability to boost body awareness, balance, strength, and flexibility.  It is able to improve postural and muscular strength.  As imbalances in the body’s structural and muscular systems can lead to problems with movement and chronic pain, Pilates can be extremely helpful in improving quality of life.

Pilates tends to be an especially good choice for people looking for a low-impact exercise program.  However, Pilates can be both non-aerobic and aerobic.  One of the best features of Pilates is its ability to be highly individualized.  Each person and his or her instructor creates a unique fitness plan.

Pilates is usually done in sessions of 45 to 90 minutes, and works to stretch and lengthen the body’s major muscle groups.  There are a few different ways in which Pilates can be done, including using a Studio Pilates machine (an apparatus that uses springs) or just on a mat (possibly using small equipment items).

Health Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is believed to have many health benefits.  Some of these include:

  • Relaxation and stress management
  • Improvements in flexibility
  • Improvements in body awareness
  • Enhanced tone and strength of muscles, especially in core muscle areas like buttocks, hips, lower back, and abdominal muscles.
  • Strengthened concentration
  • Improved balance of each side of the body’s muscle strength
  • Improved circulation and lung capacity, as a result of required deep breathing
  • Improvement in the muscular control of the limbs and back
  • Prevention of injuries to the musculoskeletal system of the body
  • Improvement in spine stabilization
  • Joint and spine injury rehabilitation
  • Improvement in posture
  • Relaxation of areas like the upper back, neck, and shoulders
  • Enhanced balance and physical coordination

Finding a Pilates Instructor

It’s important that you try to find a Pilates instructor that is a member of the Pilates Foundation.  Teachers who have this qualification have extensive training that means they can be included on the UK register of NHSTA Complementary Health Practitioners.

Pilates and Medical Conditions

It is especially crucial to consult with your doctor before undertaking a Pilates program if you:

  • Are obese
  • Have not exercised for an extended period of time
  • Have recently had surgery
  • Have disorders or existing injuries to the musculoskeletal system
  • Have heart disease or another medical condition
  • Are over 40 years old
  • Are preganant

People with diabetes who want to try Pilates sometimes need to make changes in their treatment plans.  This must be done in close consultation with your doctor, who should supervise your progress.  It is because the muscle mass that Pilates will lead to will mean that your body more efficiently processes glucose.  You will need to inform your Pilates instructor if you have complications of diabetes, like diabetic retinopathy.

Many people who have arthritis find that engaging in Pilates is helpful, because it is a strength-training program.  Pilates can help to improve and maintain joint flexibility, maintain balance, and manage symptoms, and assist you in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Your doctor will need to approve of your Pilates program first if you have recently had a knee or back injury.  Pilates may help prevent injuries to the knees by strengthening the quadriceps (thigh muscles).  Pilates might be helpful if you have chronic lower back pain.  Make sure to consult with your doctor first.

Try to find a Pilates instructor who has experience working with people who have your specific health concerns.  For example, if you have lower back pain, look for an instructor who has experience working with people who have that problem.




“Pilates and yoga — health benefits”, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/pilates-and-yoga-health-benefits

“Pilates”, Together Against Cancer, http://togetheragainstcancer.org.uk/pilates

“Pilates: What it Is, How It Works, and More”, http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/what-is-pilates