Pilates: an exercise system designed to strengthen, balance and uniformly develop the body and mind. Designed by Joseph Pilates to rehabilitate detainees during World War I, the Pilates method, which he evolved over the first half of the 20th century, teaches controlled movements from strong core muscles (abdomen and back), using a repertoire of exercises and equipment to train the body. Concentration is key to a Pilates practice, which is based on awareness, balance, breathing, focus, control and precise, flowing movements. Proponents of the Pilates method believe its focus on structural balance and core support can help alleviate and prevent back and body pain, increase flexibility and lead to a healthier body.

Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of five studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you’ll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

  • Pilates Effective for Reducing Pain from Scoliosis
    A review of a study of female college students conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of Pilates in reducing the degree of non-structural scoliosis (and improving flexibility and pain) demonstrated that the Pilates method showed improvement across all three categories.
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  • Pilates Compares Favorably with Massage for Near-Term LBP
    A 2014 systematic review of 14 randomized controlled trials found that Pilates provided significant improvements in pain and functional ability for people with chronic lower back pain compared to usual care and physical activity between 4 and 15 weeks – but not at 24 weeks. Conclusion: Pilates offers equivalent improvements as massage therapy and other forms of exercise for lower back pain.
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  • Equipment-based Pilates Trumps Mat Pilates for CLBP
    A 2014 randomized controlled trial (Universidade Cidade de São Paulo) comparing the effectiveness of six weeks of mat Pilates to equipment-based Pilates for chronic lower back pain found that equipment-based Pilates was superior to the mat variety in the 6-month follow-up for disability and kinesiophobia.
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  • Pilates Study Shows Improvements for Post-Mastectomy Breast Cancer Survivors
    A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic (Minnesota) on the effectiveness of the Pilates method for post-mastectomy breast cancer survivors demonstrated statistically significant improvements in shoulder and neck rotation as well as quality of life, mood and body image.
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  • Pilates Improves Flexibility, Balance, Endurance in Healthy Individuals
    A systematic review of 16 randomized controlled trials found that Pilates is effective in improving flexibility (strong evidence), dynamic balance (strong evidence), and muscular endurance (moderate evidence) in healthy people.
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