NCTV Episode 51

Continuing with the series of bitesize health tip videos which can be found here on my YouTube Channel, this episode, includes:-

  • What is Pilates?
  • Who is it for?
  • The health benefits
  • Pilates vs Yoga
  • Apparatus vs Mat


If you’d prefer to read the content within, rather than watch the video, then feel free to read the transcript, as follows:-

Hello and welcome to NCTV Episode 51 which is, as the title suggests, About Pilates.

Before we start I should point out that I’m not a Pilates instructor, more of an advocate having experienced the benefits first hand. However, Pilates does dovetail nicely with what I do as an osteopath and it is a great means to achieving both physical and mental wellbeing, so it’s well worth you knowing more about it, if you’ve not experienced the benefits yet.

Firstly, to define Pilates, it’s a method of exercise that aims to strengthen the body in an even way, with a particular emphasis on core strength to improve general fitness and wellbeing.

Pilates exercises are done on a mat or using special equipment, such as the Reformer, Cadillac and Wunda Chair and these can provide either resistance or support with its system of pulleys and springs, handles and straps, depending on your needs.

A bit of a history lesson and originally Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates, who believed mental and physical health were closely connected and the methods he used were influenced by western forms of exercise, including gymnastics, boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling, would you believe.

So who is it for? Generally speaking, it has something to offer people of all ages and levels of ability and fitness, from beginners to elite athletes. The apparatus can be used to provide support for beginners and people with certain medical conditions, as well as resistance for people looking to challenge their body.

Regarding the health benefits of Pilates, there are many that have been reported. However, few of these have been subjected to rigorous scientific examination, and there’s a need for more research in this area but ask most people who have experienced Pilates and they will no doubt attest to both its physical and mental benefits.

Practitioners say regular Pilates can improve posture, muscle tone, balance and joint mobility, as well as relieve stress and tension. For elite athletes, including dancers, Pilates can complement training by developing whole-body strength and flexibility, and help reduce the risk of injury.

Regarding whether Pilates can help reduce back pain, there is some evidence that it can provide pain relief to people with non-specific lower back pain. The great thing about the use of apparatus is that it enables someone with back pain to perform exercises with support.

For the exercises to be effective though, they need to be tailored to the individual and vetted by an appropriately qualified health professional.

In terms of whether Pilates can help you lose weight, it is classed as a muscle-strengthening activity, so by performing these, this can help you maintain a healthy weight. But it’s also advised that you combine Pilates with a healthy diet and some aerobic activities, such as swimming, walking and cycling.

Can you injure yourself doing Pilates? Well, as it’s a low-impact form of exercise, injuries are uncommon. However, it’s important to find yourself a qualified teacher and a class suited to your level of fitness and ability. If you’re recovering from injury, you’re advised to check with a GP or relevant health professional on the suitability of certain exercises or movements before starting a class.

One of the common questions I’m asked when referring people to Pilates is what’s the difference between that and yoga? While the methods are different, the similarities firstly are that Pilates and yoga both develop strength, balance, flexibility, posture and good breathing technique. Both systems emphasise the connection between physical and mental health, although the difference is that yoga places more emphasis on relaxation and uses meditation. Also, Pilates is performed both on apparatus and mats, whereas classic yoga does not require any equipment. Another difference is that Pilates exercises are performed in a flow of movement without the static poses associated with yoga.

When it comes to the difference between apparatus and mat work, Mat work may involve traditional Pilates equipment, such as magic circles or hand weights, as well as non-Pilates gear, such as stretch bands, gym balls and foam rollers. Pilates with apparatus uses equipment designed by Joseph Pilates, such as the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Spine Corrector and Ladder Barrel. Mat and apparatus Pilates can be adapted to suit different levels of fitness and ability, however, if you can’t lie down on a mat for whatever reason, the apparatus can provide alternative ways to exercise.

As you may or may not know, Pilates can be taught on a one-to-one or group basis. If you have a health condition that may require close attention, check with the Pilates teacher that their class is suitable. Classes using apparatus offer a higher level of individual attention, and as a result they’re usually a bit more expensive.

When looking to choosing a Pilates class you can either find a dedicated studio with apparatus, or in an open area with mats and small equipment. Both mat and apparatus Pilates can be taught privately or in small groups, with most classes lasting an hour. Apparatus classes are usually taught on a 1-to-1 basis and instructors tend to aim for a maximum of 12 people for mat work, to ensure that people can be provided with individual attention.

When choosing a Pilates teacher, you should consider their experience and the quality of their training, as well as personality and rapport. To give you an idea, experienced teachers will normally have undergone a minimum of 450 teacher training hours over a period of several months or years.

Currently of course, it is March 2021, COVID lockdown 3 and Pilates instructors are operating online classes only but soon hopefully, with the easing of restrictions, there will be in person classes starting up again in, due course.

So hopefully that’s provided you with some insight, inspiration and motivation to try out Pilates, if you’ve not already done so. That’s all for this week, see you next time for some more bitesize tips to help your health flourish. Bye for now!