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Pilates not without risks, experts warn

Regardless of the style people choose, they tend to come for similar reasons: whether they are a runner, footy player, or dancer, it improves their performance.


“It targets all the supporting muscles that they don’t always get to work out,” Bullock says. “Strengthening those teeny muscle groups is really changing their game.”

And, says Smith, for those who don’t enjoy traditional exercise, boutique classes like Pilates can provide a sense of community. “People were sick of being a number [in a gym]. They wanted to be known as a person,” he says.

The research into the effects of Pilates is limited, but there is some evidence it improves flexibility, abdominal and lumbo-pelvic stability and strength.

There is also some evidence personalised programs can provide faster functional recovery in the early stage of rehabilitation as general exercises.

But some industry figures believe the commodification of fitness, including Pilates, has led to a situation where not all instructors are adequately qualified, and larger classes can reduce teachers’ capacity to supervise proper technique.

A decade ago, Pilates was a relatively niche mode of fitness in Australia. Now, it is one of the most practised activities in the country.Credit:iStock

Sharan Simmons, from the Pilates Alliance of Australasia, says, “because there is no regulation of Pilates, our association is fighting hard to set standards. Currently, Pilates training courses can last from a couple of hours or days to a year. A course with a minimum of 500 hours is needed for an instructor to have a comprehensive understanding of Pilates.”

Lyz Evans, founder of Women In Focus Physiotherapy clinics, adds that, as a physiotherapist, she has become concerned by what she has seen in her practice as “fitness” Pilates has flourished.

Fitness Pilates (as opposed to clinical Pilates, which is usually performed under the supervision of a physiotherapist, or clinical Pilates instructor), which focuses on high reps, and putting the muscle under a moderate load using springs, bands and balls for the entire class, can be great for toning, but can come…


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