Stan Reents, PharmD
08/22/2008 11:08 AM
Last Revision: 04/09/2021 10:14 AM
Though Pilates exercise has recently become very popular, it originated in 1926 when Joseph Pilates opened his studio in New York, where he trained professional dancers. In the 1970s, a former student of Pilates opened a studio in Los Angeles to teach his strength-training technics.
So, what is "Pilates" exercise? Basically, it is a method that integrates stretching, resistance exercise, and flexibility into a single routine. While Pilates "mat" exercise programs exist, classic Pilates routines utilize spring-loaded machines with names like "Reformer", "Wunda", and "Cadillac". The machines utilize a combination of springs and pulleys. Thus, it is a non-impact style of exercise. It is definitely different than working out on a typical weight-stack machine.
Pilates exercises emphasize "core" strength training. In other words, the muscles of the abdomen, back, and torso are toned and strengthened. Pilates exercise also emphasizes correct posture, and building abdominal and torso strength to attain and hold that posture. It is harder than it first looks.
Joseph Pilates developed over 500 specific exercises using 5 specific pieces of equipment. However, instead of doing many repetitions, Pilates instructs you to perform few repetitions, emphasizing proper form and control.
Pilates exercise offers improvements in mental health as well as physical health:
Pilates and Relaxation
Joseph Pilates was adamant about proper breathing during exercise, so modern Pilates classes emphasize not only proper breathing, but, also, a mind-body connection. Many Pilates enthusiasts feel that this style of exercise is relaxing and stress-relieving.
Pilates and Rehab of Minor Injuries
Pilates exercise can be very useful in rehabbing a variety of minor injuries. An expert on this topic is Samantha Wood. She holds a Masters degree in Physical Therapy, and is a licensed physical therapist and a certified Pilates instructor. In 2019, she published "Pilates For Rehabilitation". We know of no better resource on this topic than this one! Here, she outlines how specific Pilates exercises can be used for minor injuries to the neck, shoulder, back, hip, knee, ankle, and foot.
Pilates and Relief of Back Pain
The jury is still out on whether Pilates exercise is beneficial for back pain. One case report published in the chiropractic literature states that Pilates treatments were helpful in a patient with pain and immobility due to scoliosis (Blum CL. 2002). However a recent review of low back pain published in the orthopedic literature cautioned against recommending or using Pilates techniques since there was no evidence to support this for back pain (Maher CG. 2004).
The Performing Arts Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio of Los Angeles(www.PilatesStudio.com) integrates Pilates techniques into their physical therapy program. They bill themselves as one of the first in the world to integrate traditional Pilates exercise with orthopedic rehabilitation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
- PeakPilates® (www.PeakPilates.com) manufacturers the patented MVe Fitness Chair, which is sort of a cross between a platform and a mini-table. This piece of exercise equipment allows the user to perform a variety of Pilates-like exercises.
- Pilates Studio (www.PilatesStudio.com) certifies and licenses instructors after they complete a rigorous training program.
- Stott Pilates (www.StottPilates.com) sells Pilates equipment, Pilates DVDs, and Pilates instruction.
- US Pilates Association (www.Pilates-Studio.com) is the official web site of USPA.
- Mari Winsor (www.WinsorPilates.com) is a personal trainer for Hollywood celebrities. She opened her first Pilates studio in 1990.
An Excellent Pilates Book
Sean Vigue published "Pilates For Athletes". It's an excellent resource of over 200 Pilates exercises that can be performed on a mat...ie., a Pilates Reformer isn't needed.
Readers may be interested in the following related stories:
EXPERT HEALTH and FITNESS COACHING
Stan Reents, PharmD, is available to speak on a variety of exercise-related topics. (Here is a downloadable recording of one of his Health Talks.) He also provides a one-on-one Health Coaching Service. Contact him through the Contact Us page.
Blum CL. Chiropractic and Pilates therapy for the treatment of adult scoliosis. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2002;25:E3. Abstract
Maher CG. Effective physical treatment for chronic low back pain. Orthop Clin North Am 2004;35:57-64. Abstract
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stan Reents, PharmD, is a former healthcare professional. He has been a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). In the past, he has been certified as a Health Fitness Specialist by ACSM, as a Certified Health Coach by ACE, as a Personal Trainer by ACE, and as a tennis coach by USTA. He is the author of Sport and Exercise Pharmacology (published by Human Kinetics) and has written for Runner's World magazine, Senior Softball USA, Training and Conditioning and other fitness publications.
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