Apple cider vinegar Is Pilates for you? 'Ambient gaslighting'

Linebackers and celebrities love this exercise. Why athletes and celebs do Pilates

Pilates has been around since  began teaching the method in New York in 1926, but it wasn't popularized until stars like Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow started doing it in the early 2000s. And then it was everywhere. But almost as quickly as the movement gained traction, it faded again and was .

Eight years later, it's back and more popular than ever with nearly 6 million Americans regularly practicing Pilates today. And once again, A-listers like Jennifer Aniston, Kendall Jenner and even Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, are getting in on the action.

What is Pilates? 

Pilates is a nearly 100-year-old workout initially developed by Joseph and Clara as a method of rehabilitating injured dancers and soldiers. Today, the workout balances light cardio, flexibility and strength training, and specialized breathing techniques. "From a technical perspective, Pilates is purely resistance training," says Alycea Ungaro a Pilates instructor and founder of  in New York City. Such resistance is created by one's own body weight and specialized equipment that helps the practitioner experience a "full-body corrective exercise," Ungaro says. "From a trainer's perspective it is an exercise system that offers students a holistic system of strength, stretch and alignment," she adds. 

What kind of workout is Pilates? 

During an in-person Pilates session, one can expect to work on a primary piece of Pilates equipment called the reformer, along with several other resistance tools."Proper Pilates is performed with over a dozen pieces of spring-driven equipment," says Ungaro. A personal session will usually also cover various mat exercises and other workouts catered to each individual's needs. "In a group class, you may use only a mat or only the reformer," explains Ungaro, "and some studios offer lessons on the Pilates Tower, which is another major piece of equipment."

Brett Larkin, a certified instructor and founder of , says the practice of Pilates "primarily focuses on core strength and stability by engaging the deep muscles of the abdomen and back." One such workout is called "The Hundred," an exercise in which the practitioner lies on their back with their legs raised, while they pump their arms and keep their core engaged.

Most Pilates sessions last 30 to 60 minutes and are done in bare feet or socks. "You can expect to sweat, although not as you would in a full cardio workout," says Ungaro.

Resistance training vs. strength training? Learn how to build strength and muscle mass

How is Pilates different from yoga? 

To outsiders, the breathing and mats make yoga and Pilates appear similar, though there are significant differences between the activities. For one, yoga is an ancient practice rooted in Hinduism, "while Pilates, though uplifting, is not based in any spirituality," explains Ungaro. Larkin agrees: "Compared to yoga, Pilates is incredibly modern." 

Yoga also has a lot more concentrated breathwork than Pilates. "Yoga synchronizes your movement to your breath and might include meditation or chanting and is deeply relaxing," says Larkin.

What are the health benefits of Pilates? 

Pilates has a host of proven health benefits that include improved posture, decreased back pain, increased energy, reduced stress, and has even been shown to . "Pilates is both restorative and regenerative," says Ungaro. "It improves muscular conditioning, strength, range of motion and increases body awareness and alignment."

Larkin praises the workout as also being "great for balance and stability," and, similar to yoga, "Pilates is low impact, so people of all ages can benefit," she says. 

Ungaro similarly suggests that the exercise is helpful to all. "Whether you have an injury or are a super athlete, there is a type of Pilates that will improve your function and your form," she says.

Featured Weekly Ad