Pilates: What is it, and is it right for me?

What is Pilates? Pilates, named for its creator Joseph Pilates, is a low-impact strength-training workout that emphasizes precise use of the muscles of the abdominals, lower back, hips, and thighs. Pilates is not an aerobic workout. Though you may break a sweat from exertion, Pilates should be considered a strength training workout and should be supplemented by other aerobic activities.

What can I expect from a Pilates class? You can choose to take group classes or individual instruction sessions. Classes and sessions are done either on a mat, like in yoga, or on an assistive apparatus. These apparatuses – with names like Reformer and Cadillac – provide adjustable resistance and help move you into precise positions. Pilates sessions often feature stretching and sets of repetitive strength training exercises. The sessions can be easily adapted to individual ability – from gentle stretching and stability exercises for beginners to more challenging workouts for advanced practitioners.

How can I benefit from Pilates? If you practice Pilates consistently and properly, you're likely to see and feel benefits, like increased core strength and stability; improved posture, flexibility, and body awareness; and a reduction in back pain.

Are there any precautions about Pilates that I should know about? Pilates can be strenuous. Muscle soreness is common afterwards. It is advised that beginners work first with an experienced, certified Pilates instructor in order to achieve proper alignment and prevent injury. If you have not exercised regularly, are pregnant, or have any health concerns, you should check with your health care provider before starting a Pilates routine.

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