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Introduction to Pilates

Pilates was created and developed by Joseph H Pilates over several decades, from the 1920s to the 1940s, as a way to correct and heal bodies, including his own.

The Pilates regime is a system of exercises that focuses on the mind-body connection and uses controlled movements to promote alignment throughout the body.

Specialised equipment, such as the reformer and the Wunda chair, are sometimes used to offer support and allow for various modifications suited to the individual.

The best thing about Pilates is that any age can start practicing and that it works for everyone

A collage of original photos of Joseph Pilates and his work

How it Works

Pull out your gym mat and get ready to do a series of movements that will stabilise and strengthen your core.

The exercises (or movements) are usually done in a specific order, one after the other. Many of the movements have names, like ‘The 100’, ‘Criss-Cross’, ‘Elephant’ and ‘Swan’.

The moves may look simple, but they take a lot of precision and control. It’s not like doing a bunch of crunches; there’s a strong emphasis on technique.

Pilates classes typically take 45 minutes to an hour, but you can do fewer moves in less time.

You’ll get stronger, more sculpted muscles and increased flexibility. You may also gain better posture and an elevated sense of well-being.

Plan on doing Pilates a few days a week, in addition to cardio, since Pilates isn’t aerobic.

Intensity Level: Medium

It’s demanding, but it’s not the kind of workout that always works up a sweat. It’s all about concentration and breathing. But you’ll definitely feel it in your muscles during each exercise.

Areas it Targets

Pilates’ main focus is on core, however, you can also expect to see strength gains in your arms and legs. Positions and movements used to activate the core rely on extremities to control or apply loads to the core and, hence, benefit from Pilates.

Type

Flexibility: Yes. The exercises in a Pilates workout will boost your flexibility and joint mobility.

Aerobic: No. This is not a cardio workout.

Strength: Yes. This workout will make your muscles stronger. You’ll use your own body weight instead of weights.

Sport: No.

Low-Impact: Yes. You’ll engage your muscles in a strong but gentle way.

What Else You Should Know.

Good for beginners? Yes. You can start with basic exercises then try advanced moves as you get better. If you’re starting out, opt for a class or private lessons so an instructor can keep an eye on your form to help prevent injury.

At home: Yes. Pull out your mat and join one of our Zoom classes or watch one of our YouTube videos for a convenient at-home workout.

Equipment required? Yes, you’ll need a mat and a towel

Advice for Beginners

If you are looking to strengthen your abdomen and pelvis as well as maintain good posture, then Pilates is for you. It also has a strong emphasis on mind-body connection, so you may like it if you enjoy yoga but need a more intense core workout.

Pilates is great for strengthening and toning with a focus your core and for increasing your flexibility.  Since it is not designed to be an aerobic activity, don’t forget your cardio!

Pilates involves precise moves and specific breathing techniques. It’s not for you if you prefer a less structured programme. It also won’t fit your needs if you are looking for an aerobic workout, but is a perfect accompaniment to a varied fitness regime.

Pilates can be very demanding, so start slowly. 

Is it good for me if I have a health condition?

You can tailor Pilates to your individual needs, so it can be a great addition to your aerobic workout, even if you have health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Check with your doctor first.

If you have diabetes, you may need to make some adjustments in your diabetes treatment plan, since adding muscle mass helps your body make better use of glucose. Your doctor can tell you what changes you need to make. Tell your instructor that you have diabetes and specify if you have any complications such as diabetic retinopathy. You may need to avoid certain Pilates moves.

If you have arthritis, strength training, such as Pilates, is a very important part of your exercise programme. Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training can help curb symptoms, maintain balance, keep joints flexible, and help you get to and keep an ideal body weight

If you have had a recent back or knee injury, put off Pilates until your doctor gives you the all-clear. Pilates strengthens the thigh muscles (quadriceps) and this may help prevent arthritis as well as prevent knee injuries. It may also help prevent greater disability if you already have arthritis.

Ask your doctor if Pilates would be a good choice for you if you have chronic lower back pain. It will help strengthen weak core muscles that may be adding to your pain. 

If you are pregnant check with your doctor. They will probably let you continue Pilates if you are already doing it, as long as your pregnancy is going well. There may be some changes needed as your tummy grows. For example, after your first trimester you shouldn’t exercise while lying flat on your back because this reduces blood flow to your baby. There are also special Pilates programmes for pregnant women that you can try.