Pilates has staged a quiet revolution. Twenty years ago, very few people had heard of it - only those who had been driven toward it by injury, or those at the forefront of fitness development knew about it. Ten years ago, it hit the mainstream. Yummy mummies took up this new, low-impact sport, and we knew it had really arrived when celebrities (in the shape of Geri Halliwell, amongst others) released do-it-yourself pilates DVDs.
Now, it's part of our fitness lexicon. Professional athletes extol its virtues, with footballer Ryan Giggs, famous for his sporting longevity and still playing in the Premier League in his late thirties, attributing the length of his career to the powers of pilates. So should we all head to the nearest gym to sign up for a course?
Pilates is beneficial no matter what your fitness level, and it is its flexibility (no pun intended) which makes it such a popular class at gyms across the country. However, it is particularly good if you have historically engaged in higher-impact sports, and want to do something which tones you up and stretches you but which won't affect your joints in the same way that running, for example, might do. Pilates works by engaging one's core muscles, and so helps with posture and overall strength. Its movements are small and precise, meaning that it is particularly relevant for the older generation who want to maintain tone and fitness without working up too much of a sweat.
However, it can be a lifesaver for those who are younger and more energetic but whose activities have been curtailed by injury. It rebalances the body, with qualified teachers able to identify imbalances in the physique and work to rectify them. It is this side to pilates which has been so useful to professional athletes, allowing them to strengthen their frame in conjunction with more conventional training techniques. If you are prone to injury, pilates can unlock the problem and give you the opportunity to curtail niggling problems, or nip potential injuries in the bud before they get out of hand.
Most local gyms will hold pilates classes or will be able to recommend appropriately qualified teachers in the local area, so pop down to your nearest fitness centre and investigate what they have to offer. Whether it is the centre of your fitness regime or complimentary to an existing regime, you won't regret it. Really.