By Joanna Starkey, PT


Pilates is a method of exercise that consists of low impact flexibility and muscular strength and endurance movements. It is a system of exercises designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, posture and enhance mental awareness. Pilates is a series of about 500 exercises inspired by calisthenics, yoga and ballet. Pilates emphasizes the use of the core abdominals, lower back, hips and thighs. In other words, patients exercise with attention to proper breathing and abdominal muscle control. The breathing is often the hardest part of learning the exercises. In my treatment of patients, this exercise can be very helpful.

How Pilates Started

In the 1920’s, physical trainer Joseph Pilates introduced Pilates to America. His goal was to help injured athletes and dancers safely return to exercise and maintain their fitness. Since then, Pilates has been adapted to suit people in the general community. It caters for everyone from beginner to pros. You can perform exercises using your own body weight, or with the help of various pieces of equipment. Pilates is different from yoga in that yoga is made up of a series of static postures. Therefore, this exercise is based on putting yourself into unstable postures. They are challenging their body by moving your limbs. In my experience, Pilates and Yoga are both helpful with some patients.

The Two Basic Forms of Pilates are:

1) Mat-based – this is a series of exercises are done on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide resistance. The main aim is to condition the deeper, supporting muscles of your body to improve posture, balance, and coordination.

2) Equipment based – this includes specific equipment that works against spring resistance.  This includes the ‘reformer’ which is a moveable carriage that you push and pull along its tracks. Some forms of Pilates include weights (such as dumbbells).  Other types of small equipment that offer resistance to the muscles.

In My Experience These are the Health Benefits of Pilates:

  • Improv flexibility
  • Increase muscle strength and tone. Particularly in abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (core muscles)
  • Enhance muscular control of your back and limbs
  • Improve posture
  • Improve stabilization of your spine
  • Safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries
  • Prevention of musculoskeletal injuries
  • Improve concentration
  • Increase lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing
  • Relaxation of shoulders neck and upper back
  • Stress management and relaxation
  • Rehabilitation or prevention of injuries as it related to muscle imbalances

In conclusion, Pilates can be a great way to stay active and keep you healthy.

JOI Rehab

  • Finally, to schedule an appointment for physical or occupational therapy, please call 904-858-7045.  You can also call any of the 12 area JOI Rehab Centers.
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