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Pilates: Safe, Low-Impact Exercise for Everybody!


By Columnist Vanessa Alford – Physiotherapist, Clinical Pilates Instructor and Nutritionist:

20868828899_6310cc8eb8_bPhoto credit: MANTRA emozioni olistiche 2015 via photopin (license) She knows what you are thinking. via photopin (license)

Pilates is a unique method of body conditioning that integrates muscle control, breathing, flexibility, strength training and body awareness. It is a form of exercise aimed at increasing core strength while training other areas of the body at the same time, resulting in the development of controlled movement from a strong core during all daily activities.

The Background of Pilates

Pilates was developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, a German boxer, circus performer and exercise innovator who developed a system of exercises which were intended to strengthen the human mind and body. He originally developed his method as mat exercises but, in common with many other physical culture systems from the first part of the twentieth century, he used several pieces of apparatus. He initially used the exercises to rehabilitate Second World War soldiers following which he modified the style for injured dancers. Pilates called his method Contrology because he believed his method uses the mind to control the muscles and that it could help prevent and manage illness and injuries. Pilates has also been referred to as “corrective exercise” or “medical gymnastics”.

The Principals of Pilates

Pilates increases body awareness as a single integrated unit, improving body alignment and breathing and it helps to increase efficiency of movement by improving overall flexibility and strength. The exercises are based on the principle that developing a strong and flexible torso with a stabilised core (abdominal, back and pelvic muscles) will balance and condition the body for optimal performance. Exercises include resistance training, focussing on both stabilising and global muscles, stretching muscles and mobilising joints. Pilates exercises can be performed individually or as part of a class. While there are numerous pieces of equipment that can be used, many exercises can be performed at home. All you need is some floor space!

Why Pilates is for Everyone

Because pilates is a low impact exercise, it is suitable for people of all ages, fitness levels and abilities. It is an important form of exercise for preventing injuries and may also help to improve sporting performance. Pilates is essential for people with back or neck injuries and poor posture as it focusses on strengthening the core muscles, which wrap around and support the spinal column. It can also be effective in relieving chronic back and neck pain, and may be useful for those suffering from arthritis. Pregnant women can also benefit from pilates as a strong core is required to help support the back and the extra load being carried during pregnancy. It is advisable that anyone with serious injuries or who is pregnant consults their doctor or physio before commencing a pilates program.

About Our Pilates News and Review Columnist

VanessaVanessa Alford is a Physiotherapist, Clinical Pilates Instructor and Nutritionist. She has 15-years of pilates experience and has taught pilates in several countries around the world, including Singapore and Jamaica. She is the Clinical Pilates Manager at Symmetry, Port Melbourne. Vanessa is a former elite marathon runner, having come third at the 2005 Melbourne marathon and second in Bangkok in 2004 and believes pilates is an essential component of any training regime.

Vanessa is the author of Fit Not Healthy, her personal story of exercise addiction and calorie restriction. For years Vanessa pushed her body to the limit, punishing it with gruelling workouts and depriving it of the calories it needed. She eventually paid the price for her unhealthy lifestyle as her body inflicted on her a never-ending list of disturbing, unexplained symptoms.

Vanessa lectures in sports medicine and physiotherapy and is completing her Doctorate of Philosophy in Indigenous Health. These days Vanessa still enjoys running but is committed to maintaining a healthy life balance. She lives with her husband and two young daughters.

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Disclaimer: The information published in this column are based on the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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