Discovering Pilates: 25 Intriguing Facts for Enthusiasts

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Pilates is not new to the health and fitness community, but some of the facts about Pilates might be news to you. I’m an avid practitioner of Pilates. I usually start my day with a 45-minute workout, and if, by some chance, I have some time remaining at the end of the day, I do a gentle workout again. I know; I am addicted! Over the years, I have tried to increase my general knowledge about Pilates (it’s good to know what you are getting yourself into), and I would like to share 25 of the facts that really stood out to me.

As you probably heard, there are multiple ways in which Pilates can benefit your life. The first facts only help to illustrate that point. If you want to dig a little deeper into the impressive facts about Pilates listed below, I suggest you go through the whole list! 

Believe it or not, there’s a lot more to Pilates than meets the eye, and the following facts really prove that.

25 interesting facts about Pilates – What you need to know:

Table of Content

1. Pilates is not a version of Yoga. 

Many people believe that because Pilates follows a slow, focused sequence of movements, it must stem from Yoga. Many people mistakenly think that Pilates and Yoga are the same things because they do share a variety of similarities. Both Yoga and Pilates drive flexibility and build long, lean, strong muscles. They are both low-impact exercise forms and resemble somewhat of a stretch class. Both are considered somewhat meditative, but that’s where one of the biggest differences comes in.

Yoga is about shutting yourself off from the rest of the world and meditating inwardly, whereas Pilates calls for you to be mindful and aware of your surroundings while quietening your mind and focusing on precisely what you are doing. Yoga also originates from the ancient Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India, more than 5,000 years ago. Pilates, in contrast, was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s.

2. Joseph Pilates created Pilates for the rehabilitation of war soldiers.

Joseph Pilates was always interested in alternative physical exercises due to suffering from illnesses and asthma throughout his childhood. As he entered adulthood, he had a special interest in physical training. When he was detained in an internment camp on the Isle of Man called Knockaloe, he developed what is now known as Pilates. This was to help soldiers returning from WWI recover and rehabilitate from their injuries.

3. Pilates is a form of resistance training.

Resistance training is defined as “a form of exercise that improves muscular strength and endurance”. When you do resistance training, you use the weight of your body, gravity, bands, and even weights to create resistance for your arms, legs, and torso during a workout. Pilates uses bands and other weighted items of equipment as well as gravity and your body weight to make exercises more focused and effective. 

4. Pilates is suited to men, women, and children.

Many people mistakenly believe that Pilates is an exercise system for women. Well, the fact that it was created by a man for soldiers completely blows that idea out of the water. When word of Joseph Pilates’ new form of exercise got out, dancers also started practicing the exercise. In a modern Pilates class, you will find a mixture of men and women in attendance. Because children have different abilities, there are dedicated Pilates classes for children, too.

5. Greater flexibility is a result of Pilates.

Pilates involves a lot of focused stretching, which, when done regularly, leads to improved flexibility. If you want to be able to bend, stretch, and flex more – Pilates can help.

6. Pilates is the exercise choice of many celebrities.

While Pilates is for everyone, it’s particularly popular among celebrities. World-famous celebs such as Uma Thurman, Christy Turlington, Madonna, Sarah Michelle Geller, Russel Brand, Kate Hudson, and Molly Sims swear by Pilates.

7. The creator of Pilates also called it “Contrology”.

When Joseph Pilates created Pilates, he originally referred to it as “Contrology”. This was because the exercises all focus on dedicated control of certain muscle groups.

8. One of Pilates first inventions was called “the Magic Circle”.

The original form of Pilates focuses on mat work without the need for equipment. Joseph Pilates also involved work with various types of equipment. The very first piece he created was called ‘The Magic Circle’ and consisted of steel bands wrapped around beer kegs.

9. Pilates is extremely physically challenging.

While Pilates looks easy to do, it’s anything but. It involves very precise movements that work out the exact muscle that is being focused on at the time. This means that achieving certain movements and stretches can be difficult in the beginning. Only with practice and improved flexibility can you get it right. 

10. Mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates are two popular versions of Pilates.

 Most people think that there is only one type of Pilates, but that’s not true; there are many. Two of the most popular are Mat Pilates, which is done on the mat, and there is Reformer Pilates, which is done using equipment called the Reformer.

11. Original Mat Pilates consisted of 34 sequences.

As mentioned in his book “Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology”, Joseph Pilates originally created Pilates (the mat version) to have just 34 sequences; If you want to look them up, they are called:

  • The Hundred
  • The Roll-Up
  • The Roll Over with Legs Spread
  • The One Leg Circle
  • The Double Leg Stretch
  • The Spine Stretch
  • Rocker with Open Legs
  • The Cork-Screw
  • The Saw
  • The Swan-Dive
  • The One Leg Kick
  • The Double Leg Kick
  • The Neck Pull
  • The Scissors
  • The Bicycle
  • The Shoulder Bridge
  • The Spine Twist
  • The Jack Knife
  • The Side Kick
  • The Teaser
  • The Hip Twist with Stretched Arms
  • Swimming
  • The Leg-Pull Front
  • The Leg-Pull
  • The Side Kick Kneeling
  • The Side Bend
  • The Boomerang
  • The Seal
  • The Crab
  • The Rocking
  • The Control Balance
  • The Push-Up

If you want to learn more about these sequences, here is a relatively short video from Studio2Pilates that goes through most of the exercises.

Video source: Studio2Pilates / YouTube

12. Without high levels of concentration, Pilates is ineffective.

Being distracted during your Pilates workout only leads to a waste of time. In order for your Pilates workout to be effective, you have to focus on making each and every move correctly. You need to pay attention to each movement and ensure that it is precise and focused. Any distractions and interruptions mean that you won’t be able to do this. 

13. The effectiveness of Pilates relies on correct breathing techniques.

When you take Pilates classes, you will be taught exactly how to breathe with each exercise. These are slow and precise breathing techniques, just like the movements of the exercises. In order to ensure that you can position yourself and hold a pose or stretch for the correct length of time, you have to breathe.

14. Pilates exercises are highly focused and effective.

One of the most impressive facts about Pilates is that it is highly effective. After a few months, you will see the results, and you are sure to be impressed. Of course, you have to be prepared to put in the work and work out regularly. 

15. Pilates is not meant to be an aerobic activity.  

Although Pilates is considered to be a full-body workout, it’s not designed to be a cardio workout. Therefore, it’s recommended that you complement Pilates with cardio exercises.

16. Pilates is a full-body workout.

You will never have to set certain days aside to train specific muscle groups when you do Pilates, as the workouts are focused on a full-body workout. All major muscle groups are worked out during Pilates.

17. Pilates strengthens weak muscles and stretches tight muscles.

Most exercise regimes focus on developing the front of the body, which can lead to imbalance. Pilates is different in that it strengthens the core as well as targets back development. This leads to overall stability, strengthening of weak muscles that you don’t usually workout, and stretching out tight muscles to increase flexibility.

18. Practicing Pilates improves posture.

Correct posture relies on developing the right muscle groups. Pilates develops all the right muscles for a strong, decent posture. These muscles are the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, oblique muscles, erector spinae muscles, and pelvic floor muscles. 

19. Pilates supports the back in a way that other exercise forms just cannot.

 Not many exercise systems place as much focus on back support as Pilates does. Pilates strengthens the core, which helps with back support, but it also ensures better alignment and focuses on gentle stretches that relieve the tension in tight back muscles.

20. Pilates promotes lymph fluid movement through the body.

The human body consistently detoxes itself. Lymph fluid plays an important role in that process. If Lymph fluid is hindered during its process, it can cause the delivery of nutrients to the body to be hindered too. Pilates improves circulation in the body, which leads to improved movement of Lymph fluids too. 

21. There are several items of Pilates equipment that enhance the workout.

Some of the pieces of equipment mentioned to you will include magic circles, weights, Reformer, resistance bands, chairs, barrels, Cadillac, and tower.

22. Pilates reduces cortisol in the body, which helps burn fat. 

Belly fat or highly resistant belly fat is usually a result of cortisol being present in the body. The more stressed you are, the higher your level of cortisol and the higher the chance of developing stubborn belly fat. Pilates is a type of exercise that reduces stress levels, thus reducing cortisol levels. This makes it easier to burn belly fat.

23. Pilates strengthens the core, thus improving balance.

If you struggle with balance, core workouts are the answer. The stronger your core muscles are, the sturdier you will be on your feet. 

24. Pilates is low-impact on joints, high-impact on results. 

Unlike aerobics, dancing, or running, Pilates goes easy on the joints. The movements are slow and non-jarring. As a result, you can yield exceptional physical results without putting your joints under any stress and strain. 

25. Pilates, although not Yoga, has similar mind benefits.

We have already covered the fact that Yoga and Pilates are two different things. While Yoga requires inward reflection, Pilates requires mindfulness. Both of these forms of “meditation” are great for mental health. By focusing on the moment and de-stressing, you can give your mind much-needed relief – and that’s good for your mental health. 

You’ve Got the Facts – Now Book the Class

These simple yet impressive facts should spur you on to book your first Pilates class. It’s hard to overlook the many benefits that adding a few sessions of Pilates to your life once a week can have. 

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.