Pilates is a style of exercise that has recently surged in popularity. It builds flexibility, muscle strength and endurance in your body’s core.
Its inventor and namesake Joseph Pilates developed the system in the first half of the 20th century. Drawing on bodybuilding, yoga and gymnastics, Pilates refined his system while held in an internment camp during World War I. Having access to only bare-bones equipment, he designed a crude series of resistance machines, and even today, some Pilates equipment resembles furniture that might be found in a prison hospital. After the war, he immigrated to the United States and opened a studio in New York City, where he taught until the 1960s.
Despite its relative newness on the fitness scene, Pilates has been embraced for the emphasis it puts into improving coordination and balance, as well as developing strong arms, legs, hips, back and abdominal muscles.
People of all fitness levels can enjoy the benefits of Pilates, and it can be an integral part of a total fitness program. Pilates allows for different exercises to be modified for difficulty ranging from beginning to advanced. Intensity can be increased over time as the body conditions and adapts to the exercises.
A word of caution, however, when looking for a Pilates studio or trainer: There is no mandatory accreditation process for Pilates instruction, and anyone with no prior training can offer “Pilates” to the public. To find a qualified instructor in your area, check with local gyms and don’t be afraid to ask about background training and apprenticeships.