Find out why the exercise movement that swept the world in the 1980s is making its comeback, and how Pilates is so much more than just a ‘fashionable trend’,

When I recommend pilates to a patient a common reply I get is – ‘‘pilates as in yoga?’’. No – the fundamentals of pilates is very different. One lady with chronic back pain even confided in me, that, although she knew she desperately needed core strength, she thought pilates was only for the cliche – young fit ladies who liked to wear activewear. Again, no – pilates is adaptable people of all ages and body shapes. 
Pilates is more than just exercise, it’s a great tool that is used to recover from injuries.  By strengthening the deepest muscles of the core, you can optimise alignment and create correct movement patterns to help prevent reaggravation of injuries. As a matter of fact, pilates was actually established as a way of rehabilitating injuries in World War I. 

German-born Joseph Pilates was living in England at the outbreak of WWI and while in the internment camp, he began to develop the floor exercises that evolved into what we now know as matwork Pilates. Later, he served as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man where he worked with patients unable to walk. He attached bed springs to hospital beds to support patients’ limbs, leading to the development of the ‘Cadillac’ and ‘Reformer’ machines. Not only do we still use these machines today, we also use the exercise principles that Pilates developed. 

‘’The concept that all movement originates from the center or core is a common theme in Pilates, and much emphasis is placed on recruiting the core muscles for many, if not all of the exercises (Isacowitz, 2014).’’

The fundamental theory behind Pilates is that a strong, optimally functioning body must be both stable and mobile. In pilates, some exercises focus on stability, some focus on mobility and many provide a perfect combination of both. This careful balance between stability and mobility is what allows us to achieve optimal performance and help prevent injuries. 

Although our society has currently decided that Pilates is a fashionable way to exercise, it is so much more than its cliche. The Pilates method has a long history in rehabilitating injuries and has stood the test of time with physiotherapists all over the world using it as a scope of practice.


Zenna Leung  Physiotherapist APAM

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