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What is Pilates?

Pilates was developed by German-born Joseph Pilates, who believed mental and physical health were closely connected. His method was influenced by western forms of exercise, including gymnastics, boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling. Pilates strengthens the body with particular emphasis on core strength to improve general fitness and wellbeing. Pilates exercises are done on a mat or using special equipment, such as the Reformer. Joseph Pilates originally devised more than 500 exercises for his system, of which 34 were mat exercises. Pilates can be taught on a one-to-one or group basis. If you have a health condition that may require close attention, check with the pilates teacher that their class is suitable. Classes using apparatus offer a higher level of individual attention, but they’re usually more expensive.

Who Is Pilates For?

Pilates has something to offer people of all ages and levels of ability and fitness, from beginners to elite athletes. The exercises provide support for beginners and people with certain medical conditions, and the Reformer offers resistance for people looking to challenge their body. However, if you have an injury or any health concerns it is advisable to seek advice from your GP or a health professional.

What are the Health Benefits?

Practitioners say regular pilates practise helps improve posture, muscle tone, balance and joint mobility, as well as relieve stress and tension. For elite athletes, including dancers, pilates can complement their training by developing whole body strength and flexibility, and help reduce the risk of injury. However, there needs to be more research in this area.

Can Pilates Help Reduce Back Pain?

There is evidence that pilates provides pain relief to people with non-specific lower back pain. The use of apparatus such as Reformer enables someone with back pain to perform exercises with support. Please note that Pilates teachers are not medically qualified and cannot prescribe, treat or offer therapy.

What About Losing Weight?

Pilates is a muscle-strengthening activity, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. Classes vary in intensity: they can be gentle, or dynamic and offer a solid workout. If you want to lose weight, you’re advised to combine Pilates with a healthy diet and some aerobic activities, such as swimming, walking and cycling.

Can I Injure Myself Doing Pilates?

Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise, so injuries are uncommon. However, it’s important that you find a qualified teacher and a class suited to your level of fitness and ability.

What’s the Difference Between Pilates and Yoga?

Pilates and yoga both develop strength, balance, flexibility, posture and good breathing technique. Both systems emphasise the connection between physical and mental health, although yoga places more emphasis on relaxation and uses meditation. Pilates is performed both on apparatus and mats, whereas classic yoga doesn’t use equipment. Pilates exercises are performed in a flow of movement without the static poses usually associated with yoga.