Pilates exercise has experienced several waves of popularity since its invention in the 1920s by Joseph and Clara Pilates. Joseph began developing the foundations of Pilates in his work as a World War I orderly in a British hospital, helping patients walk again. He and Clara moved to New York after the war and opened a gym where they further developed the techniques of what would later be known as Pilates.
Pilates is a series of movements designed around the principles of Breath, Concentration, Centering, Control, Precision, and Flow. It became especially popular with dancers, who tended to have injuries caused by overuse of certain muscle groups and repetition of certain movements. Pilates, through its series of controlled, smooth movements, helped dancers strengthen underused muscle groups, which was immensely helpful in preventing injuries.
Because many of us, dancers or not, perform specific actions over and over again, the average person can also benefit from Pilates. Pilates primarily helps strengthen abdominal muscles, inner thighs, back, hip, and gluteal muscles. It has many scientifically proven benefits, such as:
- Relieving low back pain
- Improving posture (which can help relieve headaches and shoulder pain)
- Decreasing stress
- Potentially reducing menstrual pain
- Reducing risk of injury by increasing flexibility, strength, and mobility
While there are Pilates machines you can use, all you really need to get started is a mat and a class, which you can find in-person or online. Pilates is a great low-impact, strength-building option that can help you stay healthy and injury-free.