It’s Pilates Day – a day to celebrate the fastest growing form of exercise in Australia! But where did Pilates come from? Is it just a new thing? And what even is it? 


Believe it or not, Pilates has grown by 250% in the 12 months to September 2022! In fact, in 2022, it was estimated that over one million Australians over the age of 15 participated in pilates. 


While it seems like a relatively new trend, you may be surprised to learn that Pilates is named after Joseph Pilates who was born in Germany in 1883.  Joseph suffered many childhood illnesses and worked hard to overcome these ailments by participating in skiing, gymnastics and diving. By 1912 he was living in England and working as a circus performer, self defence instructor and boxer. During the first world war he was placed in an internment camp and whilst there, devised exercises that could be done to keep fit with the space and equipment they had. He also spent some time working in a hospital where he began using springs and pulleys on the ends of hospital beds to keep the bedridden strong.  


After the war, Joseph Pilates then went on to open a New York studio, ‘Body Conditioning Gym’ with his wife Clara in the 1920s. He used his apparatus to enhance his rehabilitation work and much of his early designs are still evident in Pilates studios today.  

What is Pilates?  

Pilates is a collection of exercises originally designed by Joseph Pilates to increase strength, mobility and flexibility. Pilates uses many apparatuses including the mat, the reformer, the Cadillac and the Pilates chair. 

Pilates was originally known as Contrology. In 1945 Joseph Pilates published the book ‘Return to Life through Contrology’.  


The 6 principles of Pilates are Breath, Concentration, Centre, Control, Flow and Precision. 

Breath: coordinated breathing. Inhaling through the nose and expanding the rib cage laterally to fill the lungs with air. Exhaling through the mouth. 
Concentration: attention to perform the exercises 
Centre: tightening of the abdominal muscles, lumbar multifidus, and pelvic floor muscles responsible for static and dynamic stabilising using the drawing-in manoeuvre 
Control: Control of posture and movement during the exercise 
Flow: smooth movement transition 
Precision: Accuracy of exercise technique 


“A Few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion” – Joseph Pilates 

It is often said that Joseph Pilates was ahead of his time. He knew that his system had health benefits and over the following years studies have supported this.  

Pilates has been shown to:

Increase trunk endurance 

Lead to an improvement in the motor behaviour of trunk muscles 

Improve flexibility, endurance and muscle force 

Reduce pain and functional disability associated with chronic low back pain  

Increase to mobility of the shoulder, pelvic girdle and hip joint 

Enhance lumbar spine stability 

Increase muscle strength 


At CSSM, our pilates classes are filled with teens to octogenarians, Olympic athletes and office workers and everyone in between. 

Pilates can help you meet so many different goals. From athletes wanting to improve their performance, older people wanting to keep their independence, people rehabilitating injuries, those seeking relief from aches and pains and others just wanting to do a fun form of exercise to keep fit. 


There are many variations of Pilates available today. At CSSM we offer Pilates FIT, Clinical Pilates and PIER Reformer. 

PilatesFIT is a group fitness based program, led by our experienced Pilates Instructors. No referral is required, and the exercises are of a general nature, meaning they are beneficial at improving your overall strength and condition. PilatesFIT is a fantastic and safe way to incorporate Pilates into your regular exercise routine. 

PIER (Practitioner Instructed Exercise Rehabilitation) and Clinical Pilates differ to PilatesFIT because they are more specific to injury rehabilitation and clinical exercise.  Programs are designed to address specific injuries with specific aims, therefore a thorough individual assessment is completed prior to undertaking a PIER or Clinical Pilates program. 

If you’re interested in giving Pilates a try, find out more here. 

About the author

Senior Pilates instructor Kim Van Hoorn believes pilates is a pro active way to manage injury –  improving movement and helping to relieve pain. With athletes of all levels now incorporating pilates into their training regimes, Kim likes to keep each class interesting and has extensive experience treating and rehabilitating AFL and dance injuries.




 Pilates JH, Miller WJ., 1945. Pilates’ Return to life through Contrology. New York, NY: JJ Augustin ;  

Askari, A., Ashtianiy, A.A., Ghiasi, F., Hosseinifar, M. and Akbari, A., 2020. Modified Pilates versus general exercises effectiveness on lumbopelvic motor control, trunk muscles endurance, in nonspecific chronic low back pain women. Journal of Advanced Pharmacy Education & Research| Jan-Mar, 10(S1). 

Nikić, N., & Milenković, D., 2022. The Impact of the Pilates Program on the Mobility of Middle-Aged Women. Sports Science and Health, 23(1), 42-47. 

Alves, M. C., de Souza Neto, R. J., Barbosa, R. I., Marcolino, A. M., & Kuriki, H. U., 2020. Effects of a Pilates protocol in individuals with non-specific low back pain compared with healthy individuals: Clinical and electromyographic analysis. Clinical Biomechanics, 72, 172-178. 

N.R. Marques et al., 2013. EMG activity of trunk stabilizer muscles during Centering Principle of Pilates Method. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy