What is Pilates?

There's more to pilates than developing “strong abs” or “core strength”. Pilates is an exercise system that focuses on stretching and strengthening the whole body to improve balance, muscle-strength, flexibility and posture. It was created by German-born Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s.

Can pilates help reduce back pain?

There is some evidence that pilates can provide pain relief to people with non-specific lower back pain. For the exercises to be effective, they need to be tailored to the individual and taught by a qualified teacher.

Can pilates help me lose weight?

Pilates isn't an effective activity for losing weight. However, pilates exercise can support weight loss and give a more streamlined appearance. Pilates is suitable for people of all ages. It's never too late to start. With pilates, a programme of exercises is devised, tailored to the individual. With older adults, I tend to work on balance, posture, co-ordination and breathing. I offer more gentle exercises to work on their weaknesses and improve their mobility.

What's the difference between pilates and yoga?

Both pilates and yoga focus on developing strength, balance, flexibility, posture and good breathing technique. With its emphasis on the unity between the mind and body, yoga has a more spiritual side that pilates does not. The main components of yoga are postures (a series of movements designed to increase the strength and flexibility of the whole body) and breathing. Pilates also uses breathing, but its exercises focus much more on precise movements to target specific parts of the body. The best pilates classes are in small groups where the teacher can develop programmes to suit each person's strengths and weaknesses.

What's the difference between pilates with apparatus and pilates on mats?

Joseph Pilates designed his exercises to be performed on specialised apparatus, and later developed mat exercises. Exercises performed on the mat, sometimes using small pieces of equipment such as stretch bands and gym balls. For certain medical conditions, apparatus-based pilates may be more suitable, as the equipment and smaller class size means an exercise programme can be tailored to your individual needs. Classes using apparatus offer a higher level of individual attention. The apparatus is used to provide resistance to challenge your body and support your body, depending on your needs. It's important to choose a teacher who suits your physical needs, whether it's a health condition, fitness level or budget. Other things to consider are the teacher's length of training and teaching experience.