The History of Pilates

by Michelle Smith in Training

Pilates is a style of exercise that works on stretching and strengthening the whole body with an emphasis on core strength. It’s low impact, using controlled movements that focus on the deeper muscles to help improve overall health including your mood.

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. Being a poorly child he wanted to create a new approach to exercising and body control. He believed breathing to be the most important part of exercising. Being able to fully fill the lungs will create a calm mind to control the body. Allowing a person to remain in better physical and mental health.

Here’s an overview of the history of Pilates:

  1. Early Life of Joseph Pilates: Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1883. As a child, he suffered from various health issues, including asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. To improve his health and physical strength, he turned to various forms of exercise, including gymnastics, yoga, and martial arts.
  2. World War I and Pilates Method Development: During World War I, Joseph Pilates was interned in an internment camp in England due to his German nationality. While in the camp, he began developing his method of exercise, which he initially called “Contrology.” He used his time to experiment with exercises and equipment designed to rehabilitate and strengthen fellow internees
  3. Mat and Apparatus Exercises: Joseph Pilates started devising a series of exercises that focused on core strength, breathing, and controlled movements. He used items like bed springs and other materials to create resistance-based exercise equipment, which eventually evolved into the Pilates apparatus we see today, including the Reformer, Cadillac, and Wunda Chair.
  4. Move to the United States: In the early 1920s, Joseph Pilates emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. He opened a fitness studio with his wife, Clara, and began teaching his method to dancers and athletes. Over time, his approach gained popularity within the dance community for its focus on body awareness and alignment.
  5. The Spread of Pilates: The Pilates method gradually gained recognition beyond the dance world. Dancers, athletes, and individuals seeking rehabilitation from injuries started incorporating Pilates into their fitness routines.
  6. The Legacy Continues: Joseph Pilates continued to teach and refine his method until his death in 1967. His work was carried on by his students and disciples, who established their own Pilates studios and spread the method to a wider audience.
  7. Modern Pilates: Over the years, Pilates has evolved and been adapted by various practitioners, instructors, and fitness enthusiasts. There are now multiple variations of Pilates, with different schools of thought and emphasis on various aspects of the method from body weight to different small equipment like mini balls, resistance bands and hand weights.

Today, Pilates is a widely recognised and practiced form of exercise that continues to emphasise core strength, flexibility, posture, and mindful movement. It has found its place in fitness studios, gyms and private practices around the world.

The benefits of Pilates!

It will increase core strength

It will improve posture

It will decrease any back aches and pains

Decrease risk of injuries

It will enhance body awareness

It will improve mobility and flexibility

It will boost mood

It will improve balance

It will decrease stress levels

It will enhance sports performance

It will improve cognitive function

It will improve sleep


Principles of Pilates


Pilates is a thinking movement and requires a good level of concentration and focus to make every movement a conscious one.


Pilates uses a breathing method called thoracic breathing. It can be hard to master to start but whatever you do don’t hold your breath.


Pilates believed that the abdominal muscles are our powerhouse. The centre and they initiate every movement we do. Having a strong centre, you need a balance between your back muscles and abdominals.

All Pilates movements should be done with control. At a steady constant speed throughout with no frenetic or jerky movements has these can put the body at risk of injury. Slower movements are harder to control so will be more effective.


All Pilates movements should be exact, done with precise actions and breathing.


Now you know a bit about Pilates and the benefits why not get yourself booked into a session.