Pilates is a popular form of exercise, which focuses on strengthening your core (abs and the central area) so that it’s easier to move gracefully and keep strong across the body. Popular with dancers and often recommended by doctors, the updated Pilates exercises are in line with modern science, and it’s a fairly safe form (if sometimes boring) form of exercise, with well-qualified teachers.
The history of Pilates is very interesting. Joseph Pilates was a German physical trainer who devised the exercises to keep himself fit, after losing the sight in one eye, due to childhood bullying. He used them to train fellow inmates in a prisoner of war camp, and most survived the influenza pandemic. Legend has it that Hitler then called for him to train his troops. A strong pacifist, Joseph fled to the USA on a boat, where he met his partner Clara (he helped her arthritis through his exercises) and together they built the Pilates movement.
The only issue is that many books are fairly complicated, and some classes feature equipment that would be too big to use at home. Here are some far simpler books to get you started.
Pilates for Everyone has 50 exercises to strengthen your core, become more flexible, improve your posture and relieve back pain. Find a complete workout plan and 15 sequences to combine the exercises by Pilates instructor Micki Harvard.
Pilates for Beginners teaches core exercises and easy sequences, the ultimate starter guide. Written by two sisters and teachers in New York, this is an excellent book where you follow an easy program for the first few weeks, then progress to the next level. Includes 50 easy exercises before progressing to Level 1 and Level 2.
Pajama Pilates includes 40 easy exercises to do at home, by Pilates instructor Maria Makin. Includes notes on physical benefits and modification options. Use the kitchen counter or dining table to stretch your legs, and tone your arms using the edge of the bath tub. Each exercise has a colourful illustration.
My First Book of Pilates introduces children to this popular exercise program, ideal to encourage flexibility, co-ordination and play. This charming book has a dozen poses for children to stretch like a swan, curl up like a hedgehog and kick like a frog.