<p>Getty Images / Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa</p>

Getty Images / Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa

Reviewed by Kristin McGee, CPT

While Pilates has become increasingly popular in recent decades, it actually got its start more than 100 years ago when it was founded by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. He and his wife Clara developed the method of incorporating slow, controlled, and low-impact movements to achieve increased core strength, flexibility, balance, and breath control.

Understanding Pilates

When first developed, Pilates was created as a unique concept to focus on breath work when combined with physical exercise. Since then, it has proven to be a monumentally effective technique used by millions of people worldwide.

The breath work performed in Pilates is done in coordination with movements through inhaling and exhaling at certain times and using the breath to support the core and the spine, explains Saul Choza, certified Romana Kryzanowska trainer, PMA-certified Pilates teacher and owner of Winsor Choza Pilates in Los Angeles, California.

“Core strength means having the flexibility and strength of the stabilizer muscles of the trunk, which promotes an ideal posture not just in an upright position, but in all planes of action,” says Choza. “Proper posture keeps the body healthy by protecting the spine and improving all body systems.”

The duality of breathing and strength work is what makes Pilates such a mind and body-experience. It becomes a balancing act, with the inhale providing stability to the body in the most compromising position of the exercise and the exhale allowing for a deeper connection into the abdominal muscles, the articulation of the spine, and stretch of the muscles, Choza explains.

Another unique aspect of Pilates is its versatility. This type of exercise can be modified for different fitness levels and goals. While many young people find it useful for strengthening their body and mind, older adults as well as individuals with injuries may find it useful for rehabilitation with various modifications and fewer repetitions.


You can absolutely do Pilates every day, however, you will want to be sure to vary the intensity and format of your workout. For example, doing an hour-long reformer class every day may lead to injuries if you're overdoing it or not using proper form. Consider consulting with a Pilates instructor to find a balance of restorative mat Pilates and more vigorous practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine.

Physical Changes and Improvements

There are a plethora of potential physical changes that one can experience with a daily pilates practice. Here’s a look at some of the most common.

Increased Core Strength

One pillar of Pilates is the dedication to focusing on core strength, which focuses on the muscles in your midsection that help support your spine, pelvis, and overall posture. When you have a strong core, you're at a reduced risk for injury and are less likely to experience back pain, explains Choza.

Enhanced Flexibility

While most people equate flexibility with touching your toes, it is so much more than that. In fact, being “flexible” means having a full range of motion in your body, including your shoulder joints, spine, pelvis, knees, ankles, and feet, says Choza. This increased flexibility also can help you move around better and also reduces your risk of injury.

Improved Balance and Coordination

Balance is required for everyday movement, but having balance is so much more than the ability to balance on one foot or walk a straight line. In Pilates, you focus on maintaining a neutral spine while simultaneously inhaling and exhaling, which can help you balance out your whole muscular system and reduce your risk of injury, according to Choza.

Increased Energy Levels

Performing Pilates movements can help improve circulation and boost your intake of oxygen, which helps increase your levels of energy, explains Choza. “Students find that they can breathe better, and feel more energized."

Related: Preparing for Your First Pilates Class

Mental and Emotional Benefits

While many people perform Pilates for the physical benefit, research has found that there are significant mental health benefits of performing Pilates akin to that of yoga. In fact, studies have found that a Pilates practice can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and improve the quality of life in certain patients who are overweight.

Kristin McGee, celebrity yoga and pilates teacher who helped launch Peloton’s interactive classes, likens a consistent Pilates practice to meditation—or a moving meditation. “We stay in our bodies and present in each move and we use our breath and we try to connect to our core on a very deep level. It's emotionally very freeing and it can remind us to stay connected to our deeper instincts and connect to our true internal cues in every aspect of our lives.”

Stress relief is another benefit of Pilates because it enables you to become more aware of your body. Plus, deep breath work can help regulate your nervous system. This can keep your cortisol levels—the stress hormone that can put you into fight-or-flight mode—at bay.

Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation

Pilates can be a wonderful exercise to perform while you’re rehabilitating injuries, such as back pain or musculoskeletal issues. Thanks to the focus on strengthening all areas of your body, you can achieve a better balance without risking that certain muscles will become too tight or too loose, notes Choza.

“Pilates also helps you focus on what we call your dynamic strength, which translates to you being better equipped to move your joints without the risk of injury or trauma,” he explains.

Because any physical activity comes with the risk of injury, it’s still wise to incorporate rest days, which gives your body time to regroup and allows your muscles to repair from the tiny micro-injuries that exercise naturally creates.

Related: The 8 Best Pilates Mats

Adapting Pilates for Individual Needs and Goals

Traditional pilates is a versatile and well-developed system that works on inhibiting congested muscle groups, stretching sets of muscles, and exercising single joint action to develop full body holistic action, explains Choza. However, what makes this exercise so unique is that it can be adapted to the individual’s needs.

There are so many pilates modifications you can do to help protect your body in the best possible way, especially if you’re dealing with a particular injury. The key is to work with a certified pilates instructor who can make sure you’re following the proper techniques and correct form.

“A good pilates instructor should address and help with specific needs, limitations, and goals, and be able to design a personalized pilates program accordingly,” says Marie Espedal, a pilates instructor and certified personal trainer. “The good thing about instructors is that you will get guidance on correct alignment, be given modifications for different levels or conditions, and ensure that the exercises are performed safely and effectively.”

Related: Best Online Pilates Classes

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