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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

Weekly Wellness: All about Pilates

Inside the history and benefits of the viral workout.

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With celebrities like the Kardashians and Jennifer Aniston praising its benefits and results, Pilates, a type of low-impact workout, has created a vast buzz on TikTok and other platforms, with some enthusiasts saying it’s the only workout they’re willing to partake in.

But where did the craze begin?

While social media may have popularized the exercise, the workout dates back to the early 1920s, when Joseph Pilates created low-impact exercises for those in recovery who wanted to tone their muscles and prevent further injuries.

Today, many different forms of Pilates exist, including those on a reformer machine, a moveable carriage attached to springs of differing resistance levels, and mat Pilates, which usually include light weights and other tools for added difficulty and muscle toning. 

Mat Pilates, as I would describe it, is similar to a muscle-focused yoga class. The exercises flow together, but the repeated reps with light weights can easily lead to muscle shakes and fatigue if carried out correctly.

Some proven benefits of Pilates include greater core strength, muscle definition and improved posture and flexibility. All of these make it a great option for athletes, as the movements emphasize stretching and toning different muscle groups without causing any injury.

Although the workout can seem daunting from online videos of people on the reformer machines, having worked at a Pilates studio, I can say firsthand that the workout is modifiable and can be accomplished by everyone.

While the exercises can vary from feeling like a light stretch to an intense muscle-sore workout, there are ways to adjust the movements for every level of experience.

With the rise of Pilates, other workouts have taken inspiration from the style of the exercises, such as the widely popular solidcore workout studio, which focuses on reaching second-stage muscle failure using resistance springs and bungees attached to a reformer-like machine they call “sweatlana.”

I will say that this class isn’t for beginners, as the intensity of the exercises can be overwhelming at first. The workout had me struggling with what they call “the shakes” right away as I engaged deep abdominal muscles within the first few minutes of starting class and worked my muscles until exhaustion.

If you’re looking to give Pilates a try, there’s a wide variety of mat-based videos on YouTube and classes available in the Boston area. 

Being a workout class fanatic myself, I can say that while there aren’t many true Pilates studios close to campus, The Energy Barre and Core Power Yoga, which are in Medford, are similar great options for low-impact, fulfilling, pilates-inspired workouts. At Energy Barre, a studio within walking distance from Tufts, they even offer a student discount for those looking to try it.