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All about Pilates

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

There are many misconceptions about Pilates and in fact the question I'm asked most often is "What exactly is Pilates?"! So here, I'm going to try to explain the remarkable beginnings of this amazing exercise regime.

Pilates was developed over a hundred years ago so has been helping people to develop a strong core for a century. Developed by Joseph Pilates, a German circus performer and self-defence instructor, who called it Contrology at first.

Joseph wasn’t a very healthy boy growing up in Germany, suffering from asthma and rickets amongst other illnesses, but he was determined not to be beaten by his health issues and became a gymnast, diver and skier. When the First World War broke out, Joseph was working as a circus performer in England and was sent to an internment camp with other Germans. In the camp, Joseph developed his physical fitness techniques further and taught others. He also worked in a hospital with patients who couldn’t walk, developing apparatus to help them – derivatives of these are still in use today.

In the 1920s Joseph and his wife Clara moved to New York and set up a body conditioning gym. The gym was very popular with dancers, helping them to improve their technique and recover from injuries. Clara would also teach in the studio and the pair created ‘Pilates Elders’ who were able to spread the skills further through more teachers.

Joseph died aged 83 in 1967 and it was only after his death that his Contrology was renamed as The Pilates Method. Pilates is now taught all around the world in specialist studios with equipment or in open studios with mats. The system gives ‘enhanced muscular control of the back, limbs and abdominal muscles’ and you don’t have to wear just your pants, as most pictures of Joseph seem to feature!

At Gemma Pearce Fitness, we do mat-based Pilates, some of which are the same exercises that Joseph and Clara taught, others have been brought up to date with a modern twist. Most people feel the benefits of Pilates over a few weeks of thoughtful, precise movement, it’s not about working super-hard but thinking about every movement.

When Joseph Pilates first started his Contrology, he worked mostly with male participants but as the decades have progressed, Pilates is seen as an exercise that women get involved with. It’s equally as beneficial to men and women.

You'll find Gemma Pearce Fitness Pilates classes in Abingdon and around Didcot in Steventon, Sutton Courtenay and Chilton, plus online classes available to do live or on demand.

All the classes are for all abilities and ages - we strengthen the abs, the back, the hips and the shoulders with the exercises progressing as you get stronger week by week. Whether you have a persistent ache, are recovering from an injury or just want to maintain a strong core to stay healthy and flexible, Pilates is the exercise for you.

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