Back in the 1940’s professional dancers used Pilates to improve strength, balance and flexibility. The exercise program itself was developed by a German man, Joseph Pilates and was originally used to rehabilitate Second World War soldiers. Later, he incorporated the resistance of springs into rehabilitation programs for hospitalized patients and created the unique equipment now used in the exercise system. Pilates was re-discovered again in the 198o’s and has now become a popular form of exercise for anyone interested in its health benefits.
Pilates is not only great for sculpting a strong, lean body — but also for preventing and treating low-back pain. The slow pace of the exercises, the emphasis on proper breathing and the focus on alignment make Pilates a practice that is both therapeutic and strengthening in design. According to a small, randomized, controlled study published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, participants who practiced Pilates over a four-week period experienced more relief from their symptoms than those who went through typical treatment programs.
Pilates is also perfect for older adults because it does not have the impact on the body that other forms of exercise do, and is not nearly as severe on the joints as most workouts are. Pilates also helps with a variety of age-related ailments. Arthritis sufferers benefit because the gentle mid-range movements decrease the chance of joints compressing while maintaining the range of motion around them. Also, for sufferers of osteoporosis the simple and standing Pilates leg exercises may increase bone density in both the spine and the hip.
The basic Pilates principles are centering, concentration, control, precision and breath. Joseph Pilates was adamant that Pilates, or contrology as he called it, was about “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” This is one of the secrets of Pilate’s exercise, each movement is practiced with mindfulness. When you exercise in this way, the body and mind unite to bring forth the most benefit possible from each exercise. To get the best results, you need to give it time and commitment. And don’t try to progress too quickly.