Posted: 8th January 2018

Jessy Smith, Physiotherapist, BSc(Hons), MSc Phys, MCSP, HCPC registered London Road Clinic

As we enter February, all good intentions of keeping our New Year’s resolutions are starting to fade. The January detox and exercise regimes are losing their appeal. Therefore I wanted to tell you about a unique and safe form of exercise with benefits to all that is easy to practice throughout the year. Many of you will have heard of pilates. Others will picture balletic moves and poses in lycra and think it’s not for them, but please read on. It was developed by German-born Joseph Pilates while working in a hospital during the latter part of the First World War. He attached springs to beds of the immobile patients aiding movement of their limbs and adding resistance to improve their strength, developing a piece of equipment called ‘the reformer’ which is still very much in use today. Contrology, as it was originally called, was then developed further in New York and taken up primarily by dancers recovering from or trying to prevent injury. So what does pilates involve? Joseph Pilates based his work on three elements: breath, whole-body health, and whole-body commitment – with the whole-body encompassing mind, body and spirit. Mat-work and equipment pilates aims to balance out muscular asymmetries, correct postural dysfunctions, and improve balance, coordination, and breath control. The exercises work to simultaneously develop your muscular flexibility and your strength. Many of you will have heard the term ‘core strength’. This refers to the ability to control the position and movement of the trunk over the pelvis, allowing the transfer of force and motion to the lower limbs. It primarily involves the deep abdominal and lower back muscles, and the correct patterning of the gluteal, hamstring, quadriceps and hip flexor muscles that control pelvic movement. Low back pain is incredibly common and represents the leading cause of disability in those under 45 years. Improving the strength and endurance of the muscles around the spine has been found to reduce pain and disability among those with back pain. Hence ‘clinical pilates’ evolved, adding an additional element of clinical knowledge and anatomy, and this is now taught by many physiotherapists for specific conditions. So why pilates? Using minimal equipment and space, pilates is easy to incorporate into your day, whether practising independently at home, or in a class or gym. It can be practised by all ages and fitness abilities, whether working on balance and posture for older adults or developing a greater level of stability in athletes for more physically demanding sports. Pilates is also highly recommended for ante-natal and post-natal women, supporting the musculoskeletal changes taking place during and after pregnancy. Working as a physiotherapist I have always been fascinated by the specificity of the movements in pilates, and the subtle use of intrinsic muscles that we rarely train. By carrying out a full biomechanical assessment, the prescription of the exercises are specific and directly related to the client’s goal. Exercising and strengthening doesn’t mean training for a marathon, or competing at high-level sport. It does not have to be of a high intensity or velocity; mostly, it has to be enjoyable! If you would be interested in finding out more, please call The London Road Clinic on 01963 251860 or e-mail Jessy directly at jessyphysio@gmail.com 56londonroad.co.uk