How it works

Pilates is an exercise system that focuses on building flexibility by stretching and strengthening muscles. Various routines and positions ranging in difficulty improve balance and posture, while breathing exercises and guided imagery from the instructor aims to help you relax. Pilates is most commonly done in classes, but is also possible at home using DVDs or online resources.

What it could help:

Stiff joints, aches, pains, tension.

Evidence base:

Doctors, physiotherapists and psychiatrists have recommended Pilates, particularly for its benefits to health and stress relief. While there is very strong evidence to support the benefits of exercise in general in helping relieve stress, (see Exercise), there is a lack of research into Pilates. There is some evidence that it can provide pain relief for certain types of back pain and poor posture, but there has been no research into the effects on a stress response.

What to expect:

There are two main types of Pilates: matwork and apparatus. Both are taught in classes of about 12 people at leisure centres and health clubs or at home privately. There is a nationally recognized qualification for a mat-pilates diploma, but no specific qualification for teaching using apparatus. There are also instructional DVDs. Classes cater to all levels of fitness and ability and gradually intensify as you do more. You can attend as many classes as you want and need. Wear clothing that you find easy to move and stretch in.


Pilates is a gentle, low-impact form of exercise with minimal associated dangers. To avoid injury, it is important to find a suitable teacher and class. It is also always a good idea to seek advice from your GP before starting a new fitness regime, particularly if you are pregnant or recovering from an injury or serious illness.

Find out more:



Find a therapist:

If you are based in London or nearby, we highly recommend Pilates Central, which is considered to be London’s top Pilates studio.

Most instructors working in health clubs or leisure centres will be on the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs), a UK regulatory body that ensures instructors meet the health and fitness industry’s standards. You can check the credentials of any REP-registered instructor here: www.pilatesfoundation.com/newsite2/class-finder.php


Varies depending on the location and instructor. Prices start at about £16 for a single session with discounts when you buy bundles of more than five sessions, but ask for a trial session first.

How does pilates work? – VIDEO

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