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"I didn't know Pilates got it's name from a man"!

Did you? This was a statement made by a client after I quoted Mr Joseph Pilates in a class recently. The history of this exercise movement is an interesting one and very worthy of a blog.


Joseph Pilates was born in 1880 near Düsseldorf, Germany. He was a frail child and turned to physical fitness programmes to improve his body image, becoming a keen sportsman and developing talents in sports as varied as diving, gymnastics and boxing.


Interned in the war years, he developed a fitness programme for his fellow internees in order to maintain their health and fitness levels whilst being held in confinement. He was transferred to the Isle of Man where his work as an orderly bought him into contact with wounded and disabled soldiers. It was here that he began his first experiments with springs attached to hospital beds, using them to provide resistance and weight bearing exercises. From these early prototypes much of the modern day Pilates studio equipment was developed.


Achieving perfect harmony between mind and muscle

Joseph was asked to train the new German army, but declined and decided to emigrate to America. On the boat trip, he met his future wife Clara with whom he set up his first fitness studio in New York.


Actors and actresses, sportspersons, the rich and the famous and particularly dancers were all attracted to a workout that built strength without adding bulk, balancing that strength with flexibility, and achieving the perfect harmony between mind and muscle.

The Pilates boom in the UK came in the 1990s

Joseph Pilates was possessive of his method but trained several apprentices, although they were not official teachers of his method. Many of them merged his philosophy with their own work, which is why there is often the same exercise taught in different ways.


Alan Herdman was responsible for bringing the Pilates method to the UK, setting up Britain’s first ever Pilates studio in 1970. The Pilates boom in the UK came in the 1990’s and physiotherapists and healthcare professionals from all over the work became interested in Pilates.


The popularity of Pilates continues to grow with more and more people feeling the benefits of regular practice.


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