Pilates Exercises: Study on Long-Term Benefits

pilates exercises long term study book cover

Study into the long-term benefits of doing Pilates exercises

Many thanks to those of you who gave your feedback and ideas in response to our recent open letter describing our ambition to do a credible study that would scientifically prove the long-term benefits of doing Pilates exercises, particularly in helping people stay fit and flexible as they age.

Your comments were really useful and much appreciated.

So, we wanted to give you an update. We’re progressing the idea by putting together a document/proposal designed to help us find the right people to support and back the project.

wA draft cover is shown here for your interest.
We’re still in the very early stages but hoping to make progress over the coming months.

Back Pain, Back Problems and Postural Problems


Pilates Provides Exercises To Help Lower Back Pain, General Back Health and Good Posture

One of the key advantages of Pilates is that it offers relief from lower back pain. Lower back pain is an extremely common health problem that is difficult to solve. Pilates offers a solution via lower back pain exercises.

Back problems are only made worse by our tendency towards sedentary and desk-based lifestyles. Unsurprisingly, back problems are the single most common reason that our clients give for attending Pilates Central.

At least three in five of us can expect to suffer back pain at some point in our lives. Many of the treatments offered by conventional medicine address the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. Yet it doesn’t need to be this way. Pilates provides a stronger, healthier back and better posture, which in turn provides the best long-term solution to the most common kinds of back problems. Or, as a headline in The Times (above) declared recently: “Pilates not painkillers the best cure for backache”.

Celebrities ranging from the actress Jennifer Aniston to tennis star Andy Murray have praised Pilates for helping their back problems and improving the health of their backs.

The Advantages of Pilates for Addressing Back Pain Issues

Pilates can both alleviate existing back problems and prevent future ones by straightening the spine and improving posture. It does so both by strengthening core muscles and by improving awareness of how the way that we move can stress the spine. In addition, good posture is both crucial to the health of your back and central to Pilates. The combination of core strength, flexibility and balance, which Pilates promotes, leads to good posture.

Learn to stand straight and you will breathe better and digest your food more efficiently. You will also walk taller, feel slimmer and look longer, leaner and younger. Place your bones correctly and you’ll get the right muscles working, supporting your joints rather than stressing them. Stand properly and you will also maintain the natural balance and correct length of your muscles.

Poor posture, on the other hand, can cause many problems – ranging from lower back pain to the sort of rounded shoulders and stooped appearance which can come with age – of the kind that end up being treated by physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors.

Joseph Pilates discovered that if he hollowed his navel back towards his spine, his back felt protected. He was using the deep postural muscles to stabilize the spine and achieve what physiotherapists now call ‘core stability’. This strong centre forms the basis of the Pilates technique, providing the support that your body needs to function properly and freely.

If in doubt, it’s always best to check with your doctor before embarking on any fitness programme, but remember what Joseph Pilates told his clients: ‘You are as old as your spine’. Keep yours healthy by building strength from the inside out.

To find out more about how Pilates could help alleviate lower back pain through specialist lower back pain exercises, give us a call.

What Age is a Pilates Workout Good For?

What Age is a Pilates Workout Good For?

This is a question we get asked a lot. Pilates is suitable for all ages and we have clients of all ages who benefit from a Pilates workout. In fact, many of our clients are middle-aged or older. It is important to keep the body strong and supple as we age. Our older clients know from experience that a properly designed Pilates programme is one of the best ways to ward off the infirmities of advancing age. Indeed, many of our clients start doing Pilates precisely because they have reached ‘a certain age’. They realised that they no longer take exercise and suddenly thought, ‘I must start doing something, or else I’ll fall apart’.

Celebrities Endorse the Benefits of Pilates to Combat Ageing

Joan Bakewell, the writer and broadcaster now in her eighties, swears by Pilates. She started doing a Pilates workout over a decade ago. She chose it, she says, because it was easy: ‘I wanted something that didn’t expose my own efforts to ridicule and contempt. That is, I had to be able to do it.

Two other things; I didn’t want exercises that left me puffing and red in the face, nor did I want to pound machines. What I wanted was subtlety, thoughtfulness and my own place in a quiet and peaceful setting.’

Bakewell cites ‘a tremendous sense of well-being’ as one of the main benefits of Pilates. But there’s more: ‘It is wonderful for injuries,’ she says. ‘And rehabilitation of patients is quicker, easier and less costly if they are basically fit and able.’

The writer Martin Amis is another devotee of Pilates. ‘These [Pilates] exercises are really very necessary when you do a lot of sitting’, he says. ‘They keep you flexible enough to pull on your socks as you get older… When I get out of the car now, I don’t go arrggghhh…’

How Might Pilates Benefit You

A Pilates workout is the ideal choice for the busy, middle-aged person looking for a gentle and enjoyable way back to long-term fitness. One of the beauties of Pilates is that we tailor it to suit each person, whatever their age or physical condition.

Most Pilates exercises are low-impact and partially weight-bearing, which is good for the prevention of osteoporosis, the brittle-bone disease. The gentle routines build strength and improve posture, flexibility and agility. They are also good for balance, another plus for the fall-prone elderly.

Older clients still might have to ask medical advice before taking up Pilates and to start more slowly. For most, however, Pilates is both a safe and effective workout, which many do into their eighties, nineties and beyond.

In the end, Joseph Pilates liked to reflect, your true age is as much a function of how you feel as it is of the date on your birth certificate; or, as he himself put it, ‘If, at the age of 30, you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If, at 60, you are supple and strong, then you are young.’

Pilates himself was also probably the best single advertisement for the benefits of the exercise technique that bears his name, since he was lively, active and still teaching until his death – from a fire at his studio – at the age of 87.

What are the Benefits of Pilates?

What Exactly are the Benefits of Pilates?

People who have not encountered Pilates before often wonder what might the benefits of Pilates be for them. The advantages of incorporating Pilates workouts into your life are numerous, and you can read more about them below. It is a form of exercise that is even endorsed by the NHS as part of their Live Well online guide to fitness.

Pilates for All

Pilates really is suitable for all. It offers something for all ages, and levels of fitness and flexibility. People who practice Pilates find that over time they develop:

  • A stronger, healthier back
  • A more toned, mobile and flexible body
  • A leaner, longer look
  • A flatter stomach
  • A better body shape
  • A better balance between strength and suppleness
  • Better posture
  • A straighter spine
  • A taller gait
  • Easier, fuller movement
  • Better co-ordination
  • Greater body awareness
  • Injury prevention and rehabilitation
  • Gain without pain
  • Relief from stress
  • General fitness
  • A sense of calm and well-being

With benefits like this, what is stopping you from coming to the studio and trying Pilates for yourself? If you are someone who experiences chronic pain or has experienced injuries perhaps due to other sports, then read below.

Examples of People Who Experience the Benefits of Pilates

Many of our clients come to us because they are experiencing back pain. Unfortunately it is a big problem in today’s society, typically due to our sedentary lifestyle and probably worsened by hunching over computers and smartphones. Pilates is an excellent tool for dealing with back pain, both in acute cases and as a preventative measure. It is also great for people who engage in other sports or who dance. Pilates helps with whole body strength and flexibility, which in turn should lead to less injuries. Due to these advantages, it is well known that a number of professional athletes and dancers utilise Pilates as part of their self-care and exercise regimes.

If you visit our testimonials page, you can read and hear first hand accounts from Pilates Central clients who have already found out the benefits of Pilates.

It is worth noting that, as with many other forms of exercise, developing a regular Pilates practice reaps the most reward. This is why we recommend stopping by the studio to discuss how we may help you start on our Pilates journey. You can contact us via the contact page or to check out the location page for details of how to find us.

History and Origins of Pilates & The Pilates Reformer

Joseph Pilates in his Studio

The Creator of Pilates and The Pilates Reformer

Pilates takes its name from Joseph Pilates. A German-born emigré to Britain and then America, he devised the Pilates method as a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning in the early decades of the last century. His method included the use of equipment referred to by him as: apparatus. Perhaps the best known piece of equipment, is the Pilates reformer, which is in use in the Pilates Central studio today.

Joseph Pilates was born near Dusseldorf in 1880. He was a sickly child who determined to make himself strong and healthy. He took up body-building, to the point where by his teens he was getting work as a model for anatomical drawings.

Pilates was perhaps the first influential figure to combine Western and Eastern ideas about health and physical fitness. He researched and practised every kind of exercise he could. This ranged from classical Roman and Greek exercise regimes to body-building and gymnastics. He set this alongside practising the Eastern disciplines of yoga, tai chi, martial arts and Zen meditation. Additionally, he studied anatomy and animal movements. Dedicated to his task, he sampled every kind of exercise that he could and carefully recorded the results.

In 1912, aged 32, he left Germany for this country, where he became a professional boxer. An expert skier and diver, it was in England that he taught self-defence to Scotland Yard detectives and found work as a circus acrobat.

World War I and the Development of Pilates and the Pilates Reformer

On the outbreak of World War I, the British interned him as a German enemy alien. He used his time as an internee to start developing a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning – the start of what is known today as Pilates.

During his internment, he also got the chance to work as a nurse. This, in turn, gave him the chance to experiment by attaching springs to hospital beds, so that patients could start toning their muscles even while they were still bed-bound. Such were the origins of the first Pilates machines now known as the Pilates reformer. In their early incarnation the Pilates reformer was shaped like a sliding bed and used springs as resistance.

Returning to Germany after World War I, Pilates worked with pioneers of movement technique such as Rudolph Laban. It was Laban who created the basic system of dance notation still used today.

The First Pilates Studio

In 1923, Pilates moved to America.  He opened his first studio in New York along with Clara, his wife and assistant, whom he had met on the Atlantic crossing.

His new method was an instant hit, particularly among dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine. Other dancers also became devotees. They found the Pilates method the best way both to recover from injuries and to prevent their recurrence. Gradually, a wider audience got to hear of it the method.

Pilates called his technique ‘Controlology’ – only later did it become known by his own surname. He conceived it as a mental as well as a physical conditioning in which individuals could work their bodies to their full potential.

In explaining Controlology’s guiding principle, he liked to quote Schiller: ‘lt is the mind itself which builds the body’.

Pilates Returning to Britain

The Pilates method did not return to Britain until 1970. Brought back to this country by Alan Herdman. Herdman had been asked by the London School of Contemporary Dance to visit New York and investigate the methods of Joseph Pilates. Herdman established Britain’s first Pilates studio at The Place in London that year.

See the Unique photographs of Joseph Pilates at work in his studio here.

How Do I Start? Visit the Pilates Studio

Pilates Angel Islington

Getting Started – Visit Our Pilates Studio!

Perhaps you are wondering how our Pilates studio works and how you get started. Well thankfully it is a simple process. The best way to start is by giving us a call and coming to see the Pilates studio in action. Alternatively, just stop by the studio for a no-obligation chat, and we will be happy to guide you in starting off at Pilates Central.

If you like what you see and want to take things further, we will ask you to complete a form that asks you a series of questions about your medical history, current health, fitness and objectives.

How We Work…

One of our instructors will then assess your posture, alongside the information in your form and devise a unique programme to meet your precise needs.

He or she will then show you how to get started and teach you the basics.

You will find that the exercises are simple, even minimal.

Our instructors will continue to work with you as you progress and begin to reap the benefits.

They will also continue to develop and adapt your Pilates routine as your body gradually improves and your needs evolve.

What Should I Wear?

Any comfortable, loose clothing, such as a T-shirt with leggings or tracksuit bottoms, or else shorts of a respectable length; but no singlets please.

Please do not wear shoes, since they are not allowed on the machines but do wear socks, clean if possible.

How Long Is a Session?

Sessions last up to 90 minutes each.

And How Often Should I Come?

Clients come anywhere from once a week to once a day – but twice a week is typical. Our classes run 7 days a week and our opening hours are extensive, so there is plenty of opportunity to come in for a session. Further details about our opening times can be found on the Pilates studio times and prices page.

No Binding Contract or Monthly Fees

Remember at our Pilates studio, unlike at many other studios and conventional gyms, there are no membership fees or binding monthly contracts.  This means you have nothing to lose by trying out Pilates at our studio. So why not contact us today for a non-obligation chat about how Pilates may help you to transform your body. We would love to hear from you!

For answers to more frequently asked questions, please see our FAQs page.

Pilates Training for Racket Sports Players: Tennis and Squash

Andy Murray, Olympian

The Benefits of Pilates Training for Players of Racket Sports

Pilates training, says the writer Martin Amis, who does it twice a week, is the reason that he no longer groans when playing tennis. While Andy Murray also states that Pilates is a vital part of his fitness and injury-prevention regime.

“I started doing Pilates a few weeks ago, which I think has already helped. I did three or four Pilates sessions and my body feels good compared to the last few years when I’ve come here. So hopefully I’ll be good to go for the next two weeks.”

– Andy Murray, The Independent

A growing number of tennis and squash players at every level practise Pilates. They utilise their Pilates training for a range of issues. Issues such as: injury prevention and recovery, rectifying muscle imbalance, to improving flexibility and building core and stabilizer muscles.

Professional Tennis Players Use Pilates Training

It is no secret that many well-known tennis player use Pilates. Players such as Serena and Venus Williams and Martina Navratilova.  Navratilova may now be retired, but she says that Pilates has helped her body regain the flexibility of her prime. Pat Cash, the former Wimbledon champion, still does Pilates training as a key part of his fitness routine.

Pilates Helps Squash Players Too..

The Squash Player magazine, meanwhile, recently featured a full Pilates programme for squash.

How Does Pilates Help Racket Sports Players Exactly?

Racket sports are by their nature one-sided. Most players repeatedly use the same hand and arm to hit the ball, generally in the same direction. Typically they do this with their head and neck usually adopting the same position in anticipation of playing a shot. Such pronounced left- or right-sided movements load stress on the structure of the body. This produces a physique that is out of balance and thus is more liable to break down with over-use injuries particularly prevalent.

Further problems can result from the fact that few tennis players have a bio-mechanically perfect serve. Repetitive, inefficient patterns of movement combined with the quest for power give rise to problems in the collection of joints that make up the shoulder. ‘Tennis elbow’, or inflammation of the muscle tissue and ligaments at the base of the elbow, is caused by chronic twisting of the arm plus repeated shocks to a small bony ridge on the outer elbow.

While even the best Pilates instructor may not help you serve like Serena Williams or Roger Federer, a programme of specific exercises will work the body more uniformly to prevent over development of one side. It will also strengthen the deep abdominal muscles needed for a stable base from which to hit that winning shot. Addressing flexibility through the shoulders and upper back while lengthening the tighter front muscles of the torso will boost your power and range of motion – and make it easier to reach for that drop shot at the net.

What is Pilates & Reformer Pilates?

Young Woman on Reformer

An Explanation of Pilates and Reformer Pilates

Pilates is a uniquely precise and intelligent approach to exercise and body-conditioning. It gives you a leaner, suppler, more toned body and a calmer, more relaxed mind. It takes its name from Joseph Pilates, a German-born emigré to Britain and then America. He devised the exercise method, including the equipment used in reformer Pilates, in the early part of the last century. If you would like background to the creation of Pilates, then visit our history of Pilates page.

Long popular among dancers, gymnasts and others who knew of it, Pilates has now been discovered by a wider public. Devotees range from those who want a stronger back or flatter stomach to those with specific injuries or medical problems that Pilates can help. Others simply want to get fit or de-stress.

Pilates is a gentle, non-aerobic exercise method. It lengthens and strengthens the muscles and improves posture, without stressing the joints or the heart. Indeed, physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and doctors now recommend Pilates as one of the safest forms of exercise available.

You can learn Pilates either in group sessions, known as mat-classes, or in a dedicated studio – like Pilates Central. In our dedicated studio you will find expert teachers, combined with specialised, spring-resistance equipment known. Pilates using this type of equipment is called reformer Pilates. The equipment is designed to tone and strengthen your muscles, while placing minimum strain on the joints.

Choosing the Right Pilates Studio

Wherever you learn Pilates, you should make sure that your teacher is properly qualified. Pilates taught by someone without the right training can do you more harm than good. Unfortunately many exercise teachers in gyms and elsewhere now include Pilates exercises in their classes, despite themselves never having had any training at all. Our instructors, meanwhile, have had the best training in the business.

How is Pilates Different to Other Forms of Exercise?

Pilates is more dynamic than yoga, but is less aggressive, sweaty and high-impact than aerobics, jogging or gym-work. The latter, unlike Pilates, can all place damaging strain on the joints and/or heart.

Whereas most forms of exercise build the body’s stronger muscles, Pilates exercises work as much or more to strengthen the weaker ones too. The result is a properly balanced body, with better joint mobility, a firm musculature and good, natural posture.

Pilates helps you achieve such posture by strengthening the centre of the body. This in turn supports your lower back. A strong core helps you to stand straight and hold your upper body correctly.

Whereas many kinds of exercise aim only to raise your general fitness, our instructors are able to isolate and strengthen a specific muscle or tackle a particular problem with a rare precision.

Whereas other forms of exercise often cause injuries, Pilates exercises not only cure injuries but are themselves so controlled and low-impact that they are extremely safe – if taught, that is, by a properly trained instructor. What’s more, the awareness of your body that they develop enables you to avoid the same injuries or problems recurring in the future.

Whereas other forms of exercise promise ‘no gain without pain’, Pilates is a gentle, non-aerobic exercise method, which produces a healthy, toned, mobile body and calm, relaxed mind – and so proves the existence of gain without pain.

For answers to more frequently asked questions, please see our FAQs page.

Many Clients Are Men – Pilates for Beginners to Advanced

At Pilates Central Men Enjoy Pilates for Beginners to Advanced Levels…

Many men feel put off by the myth that Pilates is not manly enough for them. Yet roughly a quarter of all Pilates Central clients have been male since we started the studio in 2004. What’s interesting is that the proportion is steadily growing. Over a third of our new clients are now male. Some days the studio contains as many men as women. Indeed, many couples attend together. Husbands and partners are most welcome. We offer Pilates for beginners through to advanced level.

From Daniel “007” Craig to David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Hugh Grant and Martin Amis, every male who’s any male now does Pilates.

The Myth…

Do you have the misconception that Pilates is slow, gentle, not really exercise and won’t alter the body in the way that other forms of exercise might?

The Reality about Pilates for Men?

There are many reasons why men should look to incorporate regular Pilates sessions into their fitness regime. Let’s break the misconception:

  • Number 1: Pilates was developed by a man! – Joseph Pilates created Pilates. You can read about him on our history of Pilates page. He was extremely body focused: both strength and image-wise.
  • Pilates develops muscle groups that are often neglected – Day to day the muscles you use the most become highly developed. Pilates allows you to also develop the muscles you use less. The outcome: a better balanced body.
  • Pilates develops that all important core – By working your transverse abdominal, you work the muscles under your six pack. This can only be good, right?
  • Improves flexibility – Pilates helps to stretch and lengthen muscle, which helps prevent injuries. It also increases flexibility.
  • Great for the mind too – The focus on breath requires you to be in the moment. Men that practice Pilates find they feel relaxed and refreshed after a session.
  • Many professional sportsmen choose to incorporate Pilates into their fitness routine.
  • Pilates transforms the body – it helps you to look taller, broader and leaner!
  • Tailored to the individual – Here at Pilates Central classes are completely geared to each individual. So if you are seeking Pilates for beginners, or you are already more advanced, we cater to all requirements.

If you are still in any doubt, why not pop along to the studio and come see the reality for yourself. We are always available for an informal chat either in person or over the phone. Click for our location and how to find us or to contact us.

Who Benefits from Pilates? Pilates is for All!

From combating ageing to pain-averting lower back exercises…

Pilates offers something for everyone. It is still popular with dancers, gymnasts and athletes, but it is equally suitable for most men and women. From nine to 90 and beyond, it truly suits all. In fact, some people are surprised that almost a third of our clients are male. Many of our clients come to us because of back pain and benefit from learning lower back exercises. Whereas other clients want to change their shape or improve their flexibility.

Pilates is particularly suitable for…

  • The middle-aged and elderly
  • The desk-bound and inactive
  • The pregnant and post-natal
  • Those needing Pre- and post-operative strengthening
  • Those referred by their doctor, physio, osteopath, chiropractor or other practitioner

And for those who suffer…

  • Back pain, back-ache and other back problems
  • Scoliosis/curvature of the spine
  • Poor posture and rounded shoulders
  • Neck and shoulder pains or problems
  • Stiffness, joint pains and muscle pains, whether caused by arthritis/ osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia or other health problems
  • Injuries: sports injuries and others
  • RSI
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Whiplash
  • Stress

So how does Pilates help such a wide range of problems and age groups?

Pilates focuses on the whole body and works on strengthening the core. In doing so, the knock-on effect to the rest of the body is immense. Pilates offers a holistic fitness approach to a number of concerns. Not only does it help to relieve current body imbalances in terms of muscle and bone problems, but it helps to prevent future ones from developing. As we age this is really important. The lengthening and strengthening aspect of Pilates helps to keep people supple. Again this is another important aspect of combating the ageing process. The positive result of the internal, and invisible, aspect of Pilates’s benefits is that your shape changes to become leaner and you also develop a better posture. So ultimately you not only feel better, but look better too.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you are too old, as these benefits are not isolated to a specific age group! They can be achieved by anyone who is prepared to dedicate themselves to regularly attending Pilates classes at Pilates Central. To find out more about attending the studio and how we can help you to achieve the results you have been reading about, give us a call. You can find our telephone number on our contact page.

For answers to more frequently asked questions, please see our FAQs page.