What exactly is Pilates?

Pilates is an exercise system that was developed in the early 1900s by German born Joseph Pilates. He used Pilates to help sick and injured soldiers of World War 1 rehabilitate their fitness.

Today it is used to assist in rehabilitation and management of injuries as well as improving performance and fitness.

What makes Pilates different from yoga is that it’s more focused on strengthening your core muscles, the area from the bottom of the rib cage to the pelvic core.

A specific type of breathing is used, enabling the individual to connect to the deep layers of abdominal muscle.

What are the different types?

Pilates exercises can be performed on the mat or on specialised pieces of apparatus such as the reformer bed, which looks like a moveable carriage that you push and pull along the floor.

The apparatus is most often used for people requiring rehabilitation from injuries and pregnant women.

Mat classes involve a series of exercises on the floor, using gravity and your own weight to provide resistance. Although some also include free weights or resistance tubes.

The benefits?

Pilates will complement any other training methods that you are undertaking, by improving your core strength while systematically exercising all the muscle groups in the body,” says Pilates instructor Helen Kontogiannis of Banks Health Studio.

Other benefits include improving core and pelvic stability, spinal mobility, increasing strength and muscular balance in the abdominals and back, increasing energy and reducing stress. “Pilates helps you to achieve long lean muscles without adding bulk,” adds Helen.

“It is also good for people with musculoskeletal conditions, and those with osteoporosis, and hip, shoulder and joint injuries.”

Can it help you  to lose weight?

Weight loss occurs when you consume fewer calories than you burn no matter how much exercise you do.

Practicing Pilates like any other exercise will burn calories, which helps, although it does not burn as many calories per hour as other high intensity exercises.

A basic workout burns about 276 calories per hour.

Although, Pilates does increase lean muscle mass which increases your metabolism, meaning you burn more calories when you are doing nothing.

What can you expect in a typical class?

A typical mat class runs for 60 mins and caters to all levels and ages.

It involves breathing and stretching exercises.In many moves, you hold your torso in place while moving your limbs in different directions, which challenges your balance, mobility, awareness and alignment.

How long does it take to notice the benefits?

“Every body type has different stresses and needs and this will determine how long it takes to notice the benefits,” says Helen.

“Because Pilates works the deepest layer of muscles around the abdomen, a narrowing of the waistline and clothes generally fitting better are the more immediate changes.”

She adds that consistency is the key, and a balanced diet is paramount to anyone’s success.

Is it for everybody?

Pilates is for everybody, every age group, every fitness level.

However it is recommended that you speak to your Pilates instructor beforehand, especially if you have a history of injury or illness.