Pilates: A Gentle Workout

Reviewed Mar 18, 2019

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Summary

A sequence of carefully performed movements that attend to breathing, posture, alignment, and muscle function, especially the abdominal, lower back, and buttocks muscles

You may have heard about a popular form of exercise called Pilates (pronounced puh-láh-teez). You might even wonder whether it’s right for you. This gentle way to work on strength and flexibility has been around for more than 90 years.

Where did it come from?

Pilates gets its name from its German creator, Joseph H. Pilates. He battled childhood illness to become an athletic adult. He studied many forms of exercise, including yoga and gymnastics. Pilates worked as a nurse in an English hospital. There, he rigged springs onto hospital beds to help patients exercise and grow stronger. He developed floor exercises and exercise devices that strengthen and stretch the body. These focus largely on the abdominal, low back, and buttocks muscles. In the 1920s, Pilates brought his exercise plan to the United States and opened a studio in New York.

What is it?

What exactly do you do in Pilates? That depends somewhat on whether you are in a Pilates studio, a health club or watching a video. Any program that uses the name “Pilates” should involve a sequence of carefully performed movements. These work on breathing, posture, alignment, and muscle function. Pilates studios likely include several exercise devices designed by Joseph Pilates. There, you can expect to do some of your exercises on special equipment with springs and bars. Health clubs might offer Pilates classes based on the creator’s mat exercises. If you are practicing any form of Pilates exercises correctly every week, expect to see  improvements in:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Muscle tone
  • Posture
  • Energy
  • Mental concentration
  • Coordination

The moves are slow, deliberate, and calm. You can still have quivery muscles after class and even occasional soreness the next day. Pilates does not provide constant aerobic activity. You still need an activity that brings your heart rate up for 30 or more minutes most days of the week. Walking, biking, and dancing will do this.

Is it for everyone?

Pilates can help people of all fitness levels. Talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness program. In general, Pilates strengthens the core muscles of your body. This can ease low back pain from weakness and poor posture. Not all back pain, however, is muscular in origin. Pilates is not for you if you have a spinal condition or problems with your discs. Even if your doctor approves of Pilates for you, be sure to tell your instructor of any special health concerns. Also, the exercises can really work your muscles, but should not cause sharp pain.

Ready to give it a try?

Your best bet is to start off with a beginner class or have a few private sessions with a certified instructor. A Pilates  instructor can spot your form and teach you how to modify moves you aren’t yet strong enough for. If you have trouble finding where Pilates is taught in your area, consult some of the resources listed below.

Resources

Pilates, 2nd edition by Rael Isacowitz. Human Kinetics, 2014.

United States Pilates Association
http://unitedstatespilatesassociation.com/about-uspa/pilates-method/ 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: www.pilates.com; www.pilates-studio.com; Phyllis Ellerman, fitness director, Boar's Head Sports Club, Charlottesville, Va; Liz Brody, "The Power of Pilates." Los Angeles Times, 1998.

Summary

A sequence of carefully performed movements that attend to breathing, posture, alignment, and muscle function, especially the abdominal, lower back, and buttocks muscles

You may have heard about a popular form of exercise called Pilates (pronounced puh-láh-teez). You might even wonder whether it’s right for you. This gentle way to work on strength and flexibility has been around for more than 90 years.

Where did it come from?

Pilates gets its name from its German creator, Joseph H. Pilates. He battled childhood illness to become an athletic adult. He studied many forms of exercise, including yoga and gymnastics. Pilates worked as a nurse in an English hospital. There, he rigged springs onto hospital beds to help patients exercise and grow stronger. He developed floor exercises and exercise devices that strengthen and stretch the body. These focus largely on the abdominal, low back, and buttocks muscles. In the 1920s, Pilates brought his exercise plan to the United States and opened a studio in New York.

What is it?

What exactly do you do in Pilates? That depends somewhat on whether you are in a Pilates studio, a health club or watching a video. Any program that uses the name “Pilates” should involve a sequence of carefully performed movements. These work on breathing, posture, alignment, and muscle function. Pilates studios likely include several exercise devices designed by Joseph Pilates. There, you can expect to do some of your exercises on special equipment with springs and bars. Health clubs might offer Pilates classes based on the creator’s mat exercises. If you are practicing any form of Pilates exercises correctly every week, expect to see  improvements in:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Muscle tone
  • Posture
  • Energy
  • Mental concentration
  • Coordination

The moves are slow, deliberate, and calm. You can still have quivery muscles after class and even occasional soreness the next day. Pilates does not provide constant aerobic activity. You still need an activity that brings your heart rate up for 30 or more minutes most days of the week. Walking, biking, and dancing will do this.

Is it for everyone?

Pilates can help people of all fitness levels. Talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness program. In general, Pilates strengthens the core muscles of your body. This can ease low back pain from weakness and poor posture. Not all back pain, however, is muscular in origin. Pilates is not for you if you have a spinal condition or problems with your discs. Even if your doctor approves of Pilates for you, be sure to tell your instructor of any special health concerns. Also, the exercises can really work your muscles, but should not cause sharp pain.

Ready to give it a try?

Your best bet is to start off with a beginner class or have a few private sessions with a certified instructor. A Pilates  instructor can spot your form and teach you how to modify moves you aren’t yet strong enough for. If you have trouble finding where Pilates is taught in your area, consult some of the resources listed below.

Resources

Pilates, 2nd edition by Rael Isacowitz. Human Kinetics, 2014.

United States Pilates Association
http://unitedstatespilatesassociation.com/about-uspa/pilates-method/ 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: www.pilates.com; www.pilates-studio.com; Phyllis Ellerman, fitness director, Boar's Head Sports Club, Charlottesville, Va; Liz Brody, "The Power of Pilates." Los Angeles Times, 1998.

Summary

A sequence of carefully performed movements that attend to breathing, posture, alignment, and muscle function, especially the abdominal, lower back, and buttocks muscles

You may have heard about a popular form of exercise called Pilates (pronounced puh-láh-teez). You might even wonder whether it’s right for you. This gentle way to work on strength and flexibility has been around for more than 90 years.

Where did it come from?

Pilates gets its name from its German creator, Joseph H. Pilates. He battled childhood illness to become an athletic adult. He studied many forms of exercise, including yoga and gymnastics. Pilates worked as a nurse in an English hospital. There, he rigged springs onto hospital beds to help patients exercise and grow stronger. He developed floor exercises and exercise devices that strengthen and stretch the body. These focus largely on the abdominal, low back, and buttocks muscles. In the 1920s, Pilates brought his exercise plan to the United States and opened a studio in New York.

What is it?

What exactly do you do in Pilates? That depends somewhat on whether you are in a Pilates studio, a health club or watching a video. Any program that uses the name “Pilates” should involve a sequence of carefully performed movements. These work on breathing, posture, alignment, and muscle function. Pilates studios likely include several exercise devices designed by Joseph Pilates. There, you can expect to do some of your exercises on special equipment with springs and bars. Health clubs might offer Pilates classes based on the creator’s mat exercises. If you are practicing any form of Pilates exercises correctly every week, expect to see  improvements in:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Muscle tone
  • Posture
  • Energy
  • Mental concentration
  • Coordination

The moves are slow, deliberate, and calm. You can still have quivery muscles after class and even occasional soreness the next day. Pilates does not provide constant aerobic activity. You still need an activity that brings your heart rate up for 30 or more minutes most days of the week. Walking, biking, and dancing will do this.

Is it for everyone?

Pilates can help people of all fitness levels. Talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness program. In general, Pilates strengthens the core muscles of your body. This can ease low back pain from weakness and poor posture. Not all back pain, however, is muscular in origin. Pilates is not for you if you have a spinal condition or problems with your discs. Even if your doctor approves of Pilates for you, be sure to tell your instructor of any special health concerns. Also, the exercises can really work your muscles, but should not cause sharp pain.

Ready to give it a try?

Your best bet is to start off with a beginner class or have a few private sessions with a certified instructor. A Pilates  instructor can spot your form and teach you how to modify moves you aren’t yet strong enough for. If you have trouble finding where Pilates is taught in your area, consult some of the resources listed below.

Resources

Pilates, 2nd edition by Rael Isacowitz. Human Kinetics, 2014.

United States Pilates Association
http://unitedstatespilatesassociation.com/about-uspa/pilates-method/ 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: www.pilates.com; www.pilates-studio.com; Phyllis Ellerman, fitness director, Boar's Head Sports Club, Charlottesville, Va; Liz Brody, "The Power of Pilates." Los Angeles Times, 1998.

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