PILATES: Who, What and Why

Pilates is a physical fitness system originally developed by Joseph Pilates, a German who battled with various ailments in his youth. He developed his exercise method when he realised that exercise and athletics were positive adjuncts to his medical treatments. Joseph brought Pilates to the United States when he immigrated there in 1926, though it did not become mainstream until the late 1980s.

Almost everyone can benefit from Pilates. An older, unfit person can benefit as well as a young and very fit person. Even someone with an injury can benefit from Pilates.

The main focus of Pilates is increasing core strength, increasing flexibility and building lean muscle. The movements performed focus on whole body strength, so the core and peripheral muscles alike are equally challenged. The muscles of the core (deep back muscles, abdominals, and the pelvic floor) are challenged in all daily activities so this type of strengthening is practical and efficient. Flexibility is also increased safely through controlled lengthening and stretching of muscles. Pilates will also create muscle without bulk.

Pilates classes are typically mat-based (performed on a mat with props) or Reformer-based (an apparatus that resembles a bed frame equipped with cables, springs, and a sliding carriage). Both are equally beneficial and can be performed by beginners or advanced clients with proper supervision.

Mat-based Pilates is more portable and can be easily done in the comfort of a home or multi-purpose gym. It is typically also less expensive. Reformer-based Pilates provides a greater variety of exercises because the apparatus allows easier progression through various levels of difficulty. A person using a Reformer will have greater body awareness, but will need more supervision from a trained professional.

Doing Pilates at a healthcare facility means the sessions will be guided by a licensed healthcare practitioner (a physiotherapist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, etc.). Classes at these facilities are small and come with individualised attention from a person trained in modifying exercises based on pain and injury.

To find out more about Pilates classes or about how to achieve your rehabilitation goals, contact a healthcare professional at Align Wellness Studio.

Kristina Maxwell is a doctor of physiotherapy at Align, a wellness studio with an integrated approach to physical rehabilitative treatments and preventative care.

pilates (1).jpg
Eamon Wilson