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Pilates for Fitness, Health and Pain Relief

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Pilates for Fitness, Health and Pain Relief

When you think about Pilates, what images come to mind? An at-home workout video complete with flashy outfits and a focus on core strength? Or perhaps a fast-paced aerobic group class offered at your local gym? Though it has been a popular form of exercise since the 1980s, Pilates is often misunderstood by the general public and avid exercisers alike. Sarah Paxton, Cooper Fitness Center Pilates Trainer, gives an in-depth look into what Pilates is all about.


In the 1920s, German-born Joseph Pilates developed a form of exercise that was originally used to help rehabilitate injured German soldiers. Joseph eventually moved to the United States and introduced Pilates to the world of sports – initially helping with the rehabilitation of boxers and other athletes, and eventually becoming well-known for his work with ballerinas and dancers.

Pilates became a popular form of exercise in the 1980s and 1990s, especially among women, because it was a way to stay in good shape without building bulky muscles. Pilates became known for shaping both men’s and women’s bodies into clean, sleek and fit forms.

Practicing Classic Pilates

The classical form of Pilates is practiced on set equipment that can be adjusted to fit the bodies of those using it. Anyone can participate in Pilates, according to Sarah. “You can do the workouts on your back, and you can even do the workouts while you’re pregnant,” she says. “I have worked with professional ice skaters, basketball players and football players, but I also work with men and women in their 80s and 90s.” Sarah mentions that she even sees clients who are as young as 12 years old. Pilates can be practiced at any age or fitness level.

Each Pilates workout is tailored to the individual’s needs and goals. Using the classic Pilates equipment is how the exercises were originally meant to be performed. Some people choose to practice Pilates as their main form of exercise, and they complete two to five sessions per week. Others use Pilates as a supplemental activity in addition to other forms of exercise, like running, swimming or lifting weights, because Pilates adds a layer of flexibility and core strength to their routines.

“We naturally lose shoulder and pelvic stability with age and gravity,” says Sarah. “Pilates teaches you how to strengthen the tiny muscles that hold the bones together – your postural muscles – in order to give you a foundation of stability and strength.” These small muscles, often called the “inner unit,” start to fire through practicing Pilates, and the reaction causes the larger muscles to begin firing as well. This inside-out process is what creates stability and strength that can be applied to other exercises and activities.

The equipment itself is used to hold muscles in place and create muscle memory, so Sarah notes that Pilates can be referred to as corrective exercise. Those who practice Pilates can use that trained muscle memory to perform at a higher level in yoga, other aerobic classes and other forms of exercise.

Pilates as Rehabilitation

“Physical therapists and doctors send me their patients quite often,” says Sarah. “Pilates offers the opportunity to therapeutically work to heal the body as a whole instead of just one part of the body that is injured.” Physical therapists are required to only treat the injured part of the body – a shoulder, for instance. However, a shoulder injury might actually stem from an issue with core structure or stabilization. This is where Pilates comes into play.

“Pilates works the entire body and can challenge an injured area without hurting it further,” explains Sarah. “Often times we are able to keep the injured area stable while still working the muscles as a part of the healing process.”

Sarah notes that she works with clients who are living with multiple sclerosis, some who have had surgeries that limit their range of motion and others battling various diseases and disabilities. Each of them participate in workouts that are modified to meet their needs but still make a large impact on their overall fitness.

Practicing Pilates can be a great foundation for strength and overall fitness, and can help create a lean and healthy body. For more information about Pilates offered at Cooper Fitness Center, visit or call 972.233.4832.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.