Most people have no doubt heard the word ‘Pilates’ thrown around, but many will confess that they don’t truly understand what it is, or how it may be of benefit. The following article seeks to shed some light on this matter.

Core Concepts

Pilates is a set of exercises which aim to improve general fitness and wellbeing. These exercises are designed to strengthen the core muscles, increase global (overall) strength and flexibility and promote good posture.

Pilates is a great form of exercise for those who are well and want to maintain or improve their fitness, and can be an excellent supplement to athletes in their training. When Pilates is taught by a health professional, exercises can be modified appropriately to benefit people of all ages, as well as those who are injured or live with various conditions.

History of Pilates

Pilates was originally designed by Joseph Pilates, born in Germany in 1883. He was very sickly as a child, and suffered from numerous conditions, including asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. As a result, he developed a keen interest in the human body, and in how exercise can aid in recovery. Pilates believed that poor posture, the ways of modern living, and inefficient breathing patterns were major factors leading to poor health. As a result, Joseph developed a physical fitness program which focused on breathing, strengthening the core and improving posture and flexibility. He also developed apparatus designed to assist in the rehabilitation of the ill and disabled. These exercises became increasingly popular during World War 1 – many people suffering from war-related injuries and illnesses took up these exercises and noticed the benefits.

Over the years, these exercises have evolved as further research has emerged, ensuring that they continue to be appropriate and efficient in today’s context. The principles of his teachings still remain at the heart of the Pilates we know today.

Principles of Pilates:

Concentration:Complete focus on your whole body. This facilitates smooth, flowing and efficient movements. It is a difficult principle to master!

Control:The ability to take authority over your body and control each and every movement in a very deliberate manner. No exercise is performed in a hurry!

Centring:This refers to activating or “switching on” your core muscles. All Pilates exercises are initiated with core activation. The strengthening of these muscles can be vital in rehabilitation and in the prevention of injury.

Flow:Exercises taught in Pilates should flow into one another. A good Pilates instructor will take very careful consideration of the exercises prescribed so that flow is maintained, as exercises seamlessly transition throughout the class. This improves strength and builds endurance.

Precision:The focus is on quality, not quantity! Pilates aims for perfection with regards to the quality of movement. Precision improves with regular Pilates, as you learn to master each movement.

Breathing:Efficient breathing improves circulation, induces relaxation, improves concentration and assists in the correct recruitment or ‘Switching on’ of the correct muscles. Learning to breath correctly in Pilates can take time, and should never be counter-productive by creating confusion or further tension.

Benefits of Pilates:

There are many benefits – here are just a few:

  • Increases core and global (overall) strength
  • Increases flexibility
  • Improves posture
  • Plays a role in rehabilitation and injury prevention when taught by a health professional.
  • Improves well-being, assists with stress management, and promotes relaxation
  • Improves body awareness
  • Improves balance and coordination

AP Therapists offer individual, semi-private and group Pilates classes led by a qualified physiotherapist in both Somerset West and Sun Valley.


Body Arts and Science International (BASI Pilates) (2000-2013). Study Guide Mat Course.