Pilates is a fantastic series of exercise to promote good musculoskeletal health. It focuses on strength and stability around the trunk, functional breathing patterns, and flexibility and strength of the limbs. The programme has gained great popularity of late, with good reason, thanks in part to the Hollywood set raising the benefits of these exercises. The media has been spouting these benefits and the general population has jumped on the bandwagon.

Unfortunately one of the messages which has not been stressed is the fact that most celebrities who recommend pilates do their training session 1:1 with their instructor. I don’t think Madonna and Uma Thurman attend a class of 40!!!

The subtlety of human movement is quite profound and, whilst pilates is an excellent way of reinforcing good movement patterns and promoting musculoskeletal health, a great deal of attention needs to be paid to HOW the exercise is performed……near enough is NOT good enough. Beginners need one-on-one attention, whilst experienced participants could cope with a class of 4-10, depending on the skills of the instructor to provide adequate supervision and correction. Attending a class of more than 10 would be of questionable benefit with regards to achieving the ‘Pilates principles’.

As with anything there is also a huge variance in the knowledge, training and skills of the instructors. Because pilates is so “in”, almost any exercise class which involves abdominal work is being called ‘Pilates’ even though it does not strictly adhere to the principles. Also, from my investigations I have discovered many instructors only have a fleeting understanding of human anatomy and biomechanics therefore the subtleties of the programme are completely missed. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water…..choose classes of small size, preferably run by a highly qualified, experienced instructor, who has good anatomy and biomechanics knowledge.