Pilates - Will it help me?

Pilates has received mixed reviews over many years depending on where you read about it. You may hear claims by many models, celebrities and entertainers that daily Pilates is the way they stay looking the way they do. Others report that Pilates cured/caused their back pain. Some want to know whether Pilates will help or worsen their pelvic floor function. What about their prolapse? Yet again, others ask – What exactly is Pilates?

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a method of exercise developed by and named after Joseph Pilates, which targets the spinal, abdominal, and pelvic floor muscles, which, along with the diaphragm, are often termed ‘the core’. The focus is on body alignment, muscle balance and correct breathing technique, with the aim being to improve body awareness and control, strength and flexibility. Basically, the emphasis is on an understanding of how to move and efficiency of movement.

Joseph Pilates originally developed a system of exercises during World War 1 to help rehabilitate injured soldiers. Later in his life he moved to the USA where he opened his own studio, which became popular with dancers, athletes and entertainers and hence was more widely known. He died in 1967, however Pilates has continued to be taught in many countries around the world and was introduced to Australia in 1986.

Many methods of Pilates have been established, each one slightly different to the next. Very broadly speaking, ‘Traditional Pilates’ methods tend to stick a little more closely to Joe’s original teaching whereas ‘Clinical Pilates,’ or ‘Physiotherapy Pilates,’ often means that the exercises have been modified and take into account more recent research in the areas of musculoskeletal research.

Forms of Pilates: Mat or studio Pilates

Mat Class Pilates:

Studio Pilates:

Will Pilates help or hinder back pain / pelvic floor muscle dysfunction/prolapse?

Unfortunately, the answer is: It depends! Like any form of exercise, the way that you perform Pilates is crucial to gaining benefits. Some important considerations are:

If you consider the factors listed above, you can see why it can be difficult to gain benefits by simply following a DVD or participating in a very large mat class prior to any other form of Pilates.

So, in summary, Pilates can be a very helpful form of exercise as long as you are: