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The ABCs of Pilates

Fitday Editor

Pilates was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates and refined when he moved to the United States in the middle 1920's. As the principles and benefits of Pilates have spread, its popularity has drawn in people from exercise novices to professional athletes.

The Basics

The Pilates method is an exercise approach that concentrates on proper body alignment, pelvic stabilization, coordinating breathing with movement and proper muscle movement to promote long, lean and strong muscles. Attention is paid to both the muscle and skeletal systems with a core intensive training that provides a total body workout. All Pilates' exercises are ingrained with six principles; centering, control, breathing, flow, precision and concentration.


Every movement will focus on your core (abs, hips and low back)
Control - All muscles work in symmetry providing assistance and support.
Breathing - The focus is on full, deep breaths thus maximizing air flow efficiency.
Flow - All body parts are connected and energy flows evenly through the body.
Precision - It is essential to have appropriate alignment, placement and concentration throughout each movement and exercise.
Concentration - In order to perform Pilates correctly and without risk of injury, it is important to focus throughout the exercise and enhance the mind body connection.

Types of Pilates

Pilates is an effective form of exercise for all types of exercisers; therefore, numerous methods exist. The most common and well known is mat Pilates which may use other basics tools such as a ring, resistance bands and/or ball. All of these products can be found at your local sporting goods store. In addition to mat, Pilates studios often contain spring-loaded machines that might include the Pilates reformer, cadillac, barrel or chair.

Why Should I Do Pilates?

Pilates challenges both large muscle groups and stabilizer or smaller muscle groups which are sometimes overlooked with standard weight lifting routines. Due to the engagement of all muscle groups, Pilates is a great well-rounded, total body workout! Its versatility offers the perfect supplement to traditional cardiovascular and strength training routines and builds a foundation of proper mechanics that can be applied to everyday activities. Strong, controlled movements force muscle symmetry while expanding range of motion. Coordination of breathing with movement works every muscle, reduces stress, decreases risks of injury, improves coordination and improves posture. Its non-impact nature allows individuals of all ages and orthopedic concerns to participate.

Where Can I Do Pilates?

Pilates can be done anywhere that allows space for a mat. Many different videos are available; however, beginners may benefit from professionally instructed classes to develop proper form. Many health clubs offer mat Pilates classes that tailor workouts to your skill level and provide modifications as needed. Studios that specialize in Pilates typically have more Pilates based equipment such as the reformer or cadillac.

Laura N. Kenny is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian in the state of Indiana. She received both her Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and completed her dietetic internship at Purdue University. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree from Central Michigan University. Laura works for the Indiana Obesity Center PC under the supervision of Dr. Keith McEwen. She specializes in both surgical and non-surgical weight loss including nutritional adherence, meal planning, and macro/micro nutrient status. Kenny also promotes healthy eating through various speaking engagements throughout Indianapolis and teaches indoor cycling and Pilates classes in her free time. Since staring her dietetics career, she has worked with a variety of populations and chronic diseases. Each summer Laura volunteers at Camp John Warvel, a camp for children with diabetes. She also enjoys writing, sports, exercise, and reading "hot topics" in nutrition. Laura has a true passion for guiding people to choose healthy nutritional choices for each and every individual lifestyle. To contact Laura, email her at

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