Why all the hype about Pilates

You probably hear lots of hype about Pilates -- that it's the latest celebrity workout method and such, and that alone may make you want to dismiss it. But don't! Pilates is actually an excellent workout that is perfect for helping build muscle, raise metabolism, relieve aching joints and muscles, and can be done even by people who don't have a high level of fitness, or energy.

Pilates is a method of exercise that was developed in the 1920s by physical trainer Joseph H. Pilates. The method is based on improving flexibility and strength for the total body, with a focus on strengthening what Pilates called the "powerhouse," -- the abdomen, lower back, and buttocks - that supports your body and enable easier movement.

Pilates helps you perfect your posture, prevent injury, increase flexibility, and even improve circulation -- which can be a help to a sluggish metabolism. Pilates exercises are usually performed very carefully and in a controlled way, with concentration and breathing, promoting a mind-body balance in addition to fitness benefits.

The muscles that Pilates aim to target are the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles, called your transverse abdominis and your pelvic floor muscles. They act as your internal corset and should activate a fraction of a second before other muscles in your body contract and initiate movement. In doing this it ‘braces’ the low back and serves to protect it during movement. Research has shown that this function is lost after someone experiences back pain; even after the pain has gone, the muscle weakness will still be there. Pilates exercises target this muscle to re-train and strengthen it, thus decreasing the chance of back pain recurring.

When starting out in Pilates, it's best to have an initial assessment with a Chartered Physiotherapist as this will highlight any muscle imbalance or restricted joint range of motion that will determine the Pilates exercises that are prescribed and the ones that should be avoided, introduce you to the Pilates method, and guide you in activating your core muscles. However, if you really want to get started on your own, I'd highly recommend the APPI Low back pain DVD.

The Pilates for low back pain DVD is designed and presented by Physiotherapist Elisa Stanko from the Australian Physiotherapy & Pilates Institute. It includes a 50 minute class which is your key to enjoying reduced low back pain and increased freedom in your everyday activities. This DVD can be purchased from PhysioQinetics and costs just £16. Please enquire for further details.