Pilates Information

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dotPilates in action may not be exciting to watch, but the results certainly are. This exercise routine features slow, controlled movements and focuses on breathing and the mind-body connection. In some ways, it's similar to yoga. But there are key differences.

"It has some similarities to yoga and was originally partially inspired by yoga," explains Laura Helsel, a Pilates studio owner. "But Pilates focuses more on strength over flexibility. It doesn't work in such extreme ranges of motion."

dotToday's fitness craze goes back to its creator, Joseph H. Pilates. He developed the system in Germany in the 1920s. After a move to New York, Pilates opened a studio near the New York City Ballet in 1926. Soon, dancers were enjoying the benefits of his system.

The phrase that keeps coming up to explain Pilates is "core stability." People who do Pilates also say that it helps make their bodies longer, leaner and stronger. This is what drew those early dancers to the exercise routine.

"The basic premise of Pilates is to promote elongation of the spine and improve muscular flexibility and balance," says Daniela Moretti, an instructor and studio owner. "You also strengthen the core by learning to engage abdominal muscles."

dotToday, Pilates is more popular than ever. There are studios that specialize in Pilates and other similar exercises. Many regular gyms are also adding Pilates to their programs.

You can take group classes or private sessions. Or stay at home and use an instructional video. There are many ways to begin your journey.

"Videos are a great option for those who do not have access to a Pilates studio, or who are on a budget," says trainer John Garey.

"There really is no substitute for good instruction, however. It is highly recommended that you do at least a few sessions with a certified...instructor before trying it on your own."

Both Moretti and Helsel agree with Garey's advice.

"Most videos, even beginner ones, are quite advanced for many people," Helsel points out.

"You should always attend a class," says Moretti. "Too many people come to me with bad backs after trying tapes. Tapes don't cater to different body types and levels of understanding."

dotNot in the best of shape? Don't worry -- Pilates is a form of exercise that is suitable for everyone.

"Pilates is an excellent starting point if you've never exercised, are recovering from injuries or have limitations," says Helsel. "We have clients with partial paralysis, MS, osteoporosis, scoliosis and other health conditions."

"Pilates is great for the physically challenged as long as there is medical clearance and the instructor is knowledgeable of the condition," agrees Garey.

dotStill want to try Pilates? You're not alone. The activity continues to grow and those involved believe it will continue to do so.

"There will always be new trends," observes Helsel. "But I would hope that Pilates would withstand trends by constantly adapting to core stability and biomechanical research. It would therefore stay both current and safe."

"Pilates is so popular because it produces great results for people of all ages and fitness levels," adds Garey. "Many people are interested in toning their bodies and becoming more fit. I see the trend growing both in the near and the far future."

Female practitioners dominate Pilates. Males currently make up an estimated 30 to 35 percent, but that figure is growing.

Getting Started

dotIf you want to become one of the many people who are benefiting from Pilates, here is some advice from the experts.

"Private sessions at a specialty studio are certainly the most expensive," notes Helsel. "But gyms and the YMCA can offer much cheaper mat classes. The quality will certainly vary, though. Invest in a private session or two to start."

"Get involved -- do Pilates through your gym department," advises Moretti. "Get a program started in your high school."

"Decide on your own personal goals. Research the studio you are thinking of joining, or the video you're thinking of buying," adds Garey. "Make sure that the instructor you're working with is certified. Check their credentials."

dotAnd don't be fooled by fancy equipment. Equipment-based workouts offer different rewards but are not necessary to a good Pilates session.

"It is not necessary but it is helpful," says Helsel. "The equipment is generally big, expensive and not appropriate for home use."

dotOnce you add Pilates to a well-rounded health plan that includes good diet and some cardiovascular exercise, you can expect remarkable results.

"The greatest benefits of Pilates come from strength and flexibility," says Garey.

And if you stay in it long enough, you can pass on those benefits to your own students. Helsel says that there is always a need for top instructors. By starting young, you can reach that level faster and ensure that Pilates continues to benefit others.


Pilates Method Alliance
An international association dedicated to the teachings of Joseph Pilates

Stott Pilates
Read the FAQ section

Moretti Studio
Features a quick overview of what Pilates is and what benefits you can expect