SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Pilates is a safe and effective method of rehabilitation and exercise that focuses on muscular balance, improves strength and flexibility.
- See a qualified and registered health, fitness or Pilates professional who can conduct a pre-screening to assess your fitness level before taking up a new exercise program.
- Find a properly trained and qualified instructor of Pilates.
Pilates (or the Pilates method) is a series of exercises inspired by calisthenics, and ballet. Pilates promotes mobility and strength of all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion, whilst also having a key focus on the deep core . It improves posture, flexibility, strength, balance and body awareness.
Always consult your doctor before embarking on any new fitness program, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or have not exercised in a long time.
In the 1920s, physical trainer Joseph Pilates recognised modern lifestyles and their impacts on balance, posture and overall physical health. Inspired by his own complications as a child and by different forms of movement, he worked hard to improve his body. With great success he became stronger, more flexible and overall healthier. Following this, he introduced this way of movement what was to be later called Pilates into America as a way to help injured athletes and dancers safely return to exercise and maintain their fitness. Since then, Pilates has been adapted to suit people in the general community.
Pilates can be an aerobic and non-aerobic form of . It requires concentration and focus, because you move your body through precise ranges of motion. It requires concentration in finding a centre point to control your body through movement. Each exercise has a prescribed placement, rhythm and breathing pattern.
In Pilates, your muscles are rarely worked to the point of exhaustion, so there is not always sweating or straining, just intense concentration. The workout consists of a variety of exercise sequences that are performed in low repetitions, usually five to ten times, over a session of 45 to 90 minutes. Floor based exercises performed on a mat and specialised equipment for resistance are often used.
The Pilates method is taught to suit each person and exercises are regularly re-evaluated to ensure they are appropriate for that person. Due to the individual attention, this method can suit everybody from elite athletes to people with limited mobility, pregnant women and people with low fitness levels.
Classes are held in specialised Pilates studios, physiotherapy clinics or at your local leisure facility or community centre.
Health benefits of Pilates
The health benefits of Pilates include:
- improved flexibility
- increased muscle strength and tone, particularly of your , lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body)
- balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body
- enhanced muscular control of your back and limbs
- improved stabilisation of your spine
- improved posture
- rehabilitation or prevention of injuries related to muscle imbalances
- improved physical coordination and balance
- relaxation of your shoulders, neck and upper back
- safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries
- prevention of musculoskeletal injuries
- increased capacity and circulation through deep
- improved concentration
- increased body awareness
- stress management and relaxation.
Pilates suitable for everyone
Pilates caters for everyone, from beginner to advanced. You can perform exercises using your own body weight, or with the help of various pieces of equipment.
A typical Pilates workout includes a number of exercises and stretches. Each exercise is performed with attention to correct breathing techniques and abdominal muscle control. To gain the maximum benefit, you should do Pilates at least two or three times per week. You may notice postural improvements after 10 to 20 sessions.
The difference between Pilates and yoga
Pilates and Yoga are often thought to be one in the same, however Pilates traditionally focuses more on control of movement and muscular endurance as opposed to yoga which connects the body to the mind through flow of movement.
Types of Pilates
The two basic forms of Pilates are:
- Mat-based Pilates – this is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide resistance. The main aim is to condition the deeper, supporting muscles of your body to improve posture, balance and coordination
- Equipment-based Pilates – this includes specific equipment that works against spring-loaded resistance, including the ‘reformer’, which is a moveable carriage that you push and pull along its tracks.
Some forms of Pilates include weights (such as dumbbells) and other types of small equipment that offer resistance to the muscles.
Quality in a Pilates workout
Pilates consists of moving through a slow, sustained series of exercises using abdominal control and proper breathing. The quality of each posture is more important than the number of repetitions or how energetically you can move.
Books, online videos and other resources are available, however seek instruction from a qualified Pilates professional teacher/instructor or physiotherapist to get the best results.
Pilates and general precautions
Although Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise, certain people should seek professional advice before embarking on a new program, including:
- people who have recently had
- males aged 45 years and older and females aged 55 years and older.
- people with a pre-existing medical condition such as heart disease
- people with pre-existing musculoskeletal injuries or disorders
- anyone who has not exercised for a long time
- people who are very overweight or obese
- anyone who is deemed at risk of an adverse event after completing a .