Pilates first gained popularity when professional dancers from the US started using it to help them recover from injuries, as it focuses on boosting flexibility, posture, strength and balance across the whole body.
The discipline mainly concentrates on stretching and is becoming increasingly popular all over the globe, partly down to glowing endorsements from celebrity fans.
However, there is more to pilates than meets the eye. Its benefits are not just limited to improving core strength and building up impressive abs. There are many other plus points, including its effective use as a weight-loss strategy, making a person more resistant to straining injuries and the lowering of stress levels.
Like almost all physical exertion, the practising of pilates releases endorphins around the body, which naturally relaxes the body and relieves tension. That sense of calm is extend through breathing exercises that those doing pilates also carry out.
Can anyone do pilates?
Pretty much. While it's not recommended to bring children to a class as they are likely to become bored and frustrated with the pace of what is going on around them, pilates is suitable for adults of any age.
Because of the gentle, low-intensity nature of the exercise, injuries are rare and most teachers will cater for all abilities - so anyone can get involved, regardless of their experience or confidence.
When choosing a teacher, sometimes it is a good idea to try out several different classes before settling on one specifically that you intend to go to regularly. This will mean the course should eventually be the most suitable for the person taking it, with existing health conditions, personality and budget all aspects to be considered.
The most effective sessions are those with fewer people in, as the trainer will be able to address any weaknesses the participants have and support them in improving their overall performance.
There is also several national pilates training bodies, so accreditations from organisations like the Pilates Foundation or Body Control Pilates are always a good sign that the teaching is of a good quality.
What's the difference between pilates and yoga?
Because pilates is based upon elements of yoga, it can easy be for those with little knowledge in either to confuse the two.
However, one of the key differences is the spiritual element that yoga offers. This is something that isn't present in pilates teachings, which focus more on targeting specific parts of the body and building strength in those areas.
Both disciplines utilise breathing, but yoga concentrates more on holding postures. Another difference is that pilates exercises sometimes involve the use of extra equipment like resistance bands and gym balls.
Other apparatus may occasionally also be included in sessions, however, these classes are generally more expensive as they require the teacher paying more individual attention to everyone taking part.