So what exactly is pilates?
Pilates is a total body-conditioning programme that corrects alignment by building strength and flexibility. It sculpts the body from the inside out. Exercises are designed to build what's called a 'girdle of strength' by focusing on abdominal and postural muscles. But there is also an emphasis on breathing to ensure that lungs are used to maximum capacity. The basic principles of pilates work on alignment, breathing, co-ordination, concentration and relaxation to give you a longer, leaner shape, better posture, a strong back and more mobility.
Is this a new system?
The origins of the system date back to the 1920s. As a child, German-born Joseph Pilates suffered from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. But, by the time he reached his teens, he had transformed himself into a diver, gymnast and skier. Determined to overcome his illness he combined a number of different disciplines - yoga, meditation, body-building and gymnastics - and came up with a complete body-conditioning programme. He established a New York studio and taught his system to a select group of dancers, athletes and celebrities.
Is pilates for everyone?
PhysioPilates is suitable for anyone â€“ young or old, fit or not. And pilates is easy to learn. However, I strongly recommend that anyone suffering from back pain or other injuries may benefit from a one-to-one session with a trained instructor, or chartered physiotherapist, before beginning regular sessions. The trained physiopilates instructor can modify the exercises to suit almost anyone.
How often do I need to do the exercises?
No sweat - you don't have to work yourself into the ground. Just 10 minutes a day is enough to achieve excellent results. It doesn't involve a huge commitment and sessions can be easily worked into your day, at lunchtime or after work. Pilates himself said: "In ten sessions you will feel a difference; in 20 you will see a difference and in 30 you will have a new body."
Will I lose weight?
This is not a miracle weight-loss programme. However, recent studies have shown that low intensity exercise does increase your metabolic rate, and burn fat â€“ not just at the time of exercise, but afterwards also. You should, though, include some form of cardio-vascular exercise in your lifestyle for your general health.
I'm worried that exercises like this will make me muscular and bulkyâ€¦
Unlike weights or other forms of strenuous exercise, Pilates develops
well-toned, elongated muscles without adding bulk. Instead, you'll find yourself using muscles you don't know you have. In fact, some people even claim to have grown by as much as an inch, as their posture improves.
What should I wear?
Wear something comfortable, allowing freedom of movement. Ideally, though, the exercises should be done on a padded mat.
How do I start?
Beginners may be best advised to join a local class. It is important that exercises are done correctly or you could damage your body.
Ok, I'm hooked â€“ where do I go for further information?