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What is Pilates?

Pilates is a form of exercise and body conditioning developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, mostly as a method of injury recovery for dancers and veterans of World War I. Over time, it became clear that Pilates could benefit a much wider range of people — including people who aren’t injured at all.  We are creatures of habit and, as such, we walk a certain way, we take the stairs a certain way, we stand a certain way and we sit at our desk a certain way, etc., so, our muscles get imbalanced because of overuse.  Pilates helps to counteract that.

Some of the principles that guide the Pilates method include concentration on each movement, use of the abdomen and low back muscles, flowing, precise movement patterns and controlled breathing. Depending on the exercise, Pilates routines can be performed on specially designed apparatuses, including a bed-like structure called a reformer, or more simply on a mat or blanket.

Pilates is a form of strength training, but it doesn’t look like some of the other strength training exercises you might be familiar with. Pilates focuses more on improving muscle tone than building muscles, but the result is similar: greater stability and endurance. Pilates isn’t going to bulk you up — if anything, it’s designed to cultivate a longer, leaner look. Still, it can lay a strong physical foundation for muscle-building activities — and reduces your likelihood of injury.

Benefits of Pilates

Pain Relief

The benefits of Pilates are both therapeutic and preventive. The practice may help you recover from an existing injury or manage a chronic musculoskeletal issue. It may also help you establish a healthy baseline, so that when those injuries or issues arise, you’re able to bounce back faster.

Pilates is known especially for improving lower back pain as seen in numerous studies.  Pilates helps lower back pain because, besides tight muscles, lower back pain also comes from misalignment and lack of core strength. Proper alignment also makes your gait sturdier and straighter, which can make it easier to exercise and helps prevent falls.

Core strength

One of the reasons Pilates is such a good workout is that it specifically focuses on building core strength. While most people consider their abdomen to be the core of their body , The core includes more than just your abdomen, but also includes your obliques, your mid to lower back, your buttocks and your hips. What happens in your core affects the rest of your body.


Having a strong, aligned core makes it easier to have good posture — a seemingly small change that can positively impact many areas of your life.

Relaxing and strengthening your muscles leads to big help for your body. Slumping against the back of  chair, for example, puts pressure on your lower back and impacts both your breathing and digestion.


There’s quite a bit of stretching in Pilates — which translates to improved flexibility. In addition to expanding the range of activities you can do, flexibility may protect you from injury, help your muscles relax and help you retain both mobility and range of motion as you get older.

Balance and coordination

Our core is also the key to balance and coordination. You are weak or out of alignment, it makes it harder to find our center of gravity, which can make us more prone to injury. Pilates makes it easier to find your balance — and maintain it. Improved balance and coordination improves your special awareness, resulting in more balanced movement and a reduced risk of falls.

Breath control

Like yoga and many other mindfulness practices, intentional breathing is also an important part of Pilates. Being aware of and controlling your breath doesn’t just allow you to deepen a stretch or perform at a higher level — research shows it can also reduce stress.

Mental health and well-being

The benefits of exercise for your mental health and well-being are, at this point, firmly established.

While not a high-intensity workout, Pilates gets your heart pumping, and combines strength and resistance training with deep stretching. Think of Pilates as complementing — not replacing — any mental health support you’re already receiving.

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