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Advances in Complementary & Alternative medicine

Pilates Conventional or Complementary?

Elizabeth Akam1* and Kathy Riley Smith2

1Loughborough University, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, UK

2The Pilates Studio, KRS Pilates, UK

*Corresponding author:Elizabeth Akam, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, UK

Submission: June 21, 2019;Published: June 24, 2019

DOI: 10.31031/ACAM.2019.04.000596

ISSN: 2637-7802
Volume4 Issue4


The Pilates method was developed by the German Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s and is still widely practiced today. Joseph Pilates based his work on three principles: breath, whole-body health and whole-body commitment, with the whole-body encompassing mind, body and spirit. It is a very physical form of activity based around “centering” which involves working the core muscles for strength gains, whilst centering the mind and breath to support this development. The physical activity aspect of Pilates, strength gain, is often overlooked as with the Pilates principles traditionally cited as: Breath; Concentration; Centering; Control; Precision; Flow mean Pilates is placed as an “alternative” or “complementary” therapy and side lined to a certain extent by both the sports and medical communities.

Despite being frequently categorized as alternative or complementary by both the medical and sporting communities a growing scientific interest in Pilates can be evidenced when looking at the number of scientific publications (Figure 1).

Figure 1:PubMed result.

Of the approximately 430 articles found on Pubmed [1] when using Pilates as a search term over half have been generated in the last 5 years. This is suggestive of a growing awareness of Pilates and a deepening acceptance of its scientific value. Within these articles there are a number related to positive gains in healthy individuals [2-4] and even more relating to the benefits in different disease populations, for example breast cancer [5-8] and mental health [9-12]. Despite the scientific communities deepening interest there is a paucity of data relating to the overall strength gains and any concomitant biochemical changes.

There is some evidence that complementary and alternative medicine health promotion concepts are internally consistent and increasingly in agreement with the current health and wellbeing concepts in conventional medicine [13]. This commentary shows that the interest in the Pilates method continues to grow and does not require data relating to strength and biochemistry to continue to expand its popularity. Yet the degree of agreement between conventional and alternative medicine could be further consolidated with more sports or medicine-based studies with satisfactory sample sizes providing stronger evidence for all the medical communities to accept and prescribe Pilates. “Above all, learn how to breathe correctly.” - Joseph Pilates


  2. Finatto P, Silva ESD, Okamura AB, Almada BP, Storniolo JLL, et al. (2018) Pilates training improves 5km run performance by changing metabolic cost and muscle activity in trained runners 13(3): e0194057.
  3. Laws A, Williams S, Wilson C (2017) The effect of clinical Pilates on functional movement in recreational runners. Int J Sports Med 38(10): 776-780.
  4. Giacomini MB, da Silva AMV, Weber LM, Monteiro MB (2016) The Pilates method increases respiratory muscle strength and performance as well as abdominal muscle thickness. J Bodyw Mov Ther 20(2): 258-264.
  5. Espíndula RC, Nadas GB, Rosa MID, Foster C, Araújo FC, et al. (2017) Pilates for breast cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Rev Assoc Med Bras 63: 1006-1012.
  6. Zengin AA, Razak OA, Karanlik H, Yaman AF, Narin AN (2017) Effectiveness of Pilates-based exercises on upper extremity disorders related with breast cancer treatment. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl) 26(6): 1-8.
  7. Loudon A, Barnett T, Williams AY (2017) breast cancer-related lymphoedema and well-being: A descriptive report of women’s participation in a clinical trial. J Clin Nurs 26(23-24): 4685-4695.
  8. Lopez G, Liu W, Madden K, Fellman B, Li Y, et al. (2018) Adolescent-young adults (AYA) with cancer seeking integrative oncology consultations: demographics, characteristics, and self-reported outcomes. Support. Care Cancer 26(4): 1161-1167.
  9. Fleming KM, Herring MP (2018) The effects of pilates on mental health outcomes: A meta-analysis of controlled trials. Complement. Ther Med 37: 80-95.
  10. Tolnai N, Szabó Z, Köteles F, Szabo A (2016) Physical and psychological benefits of once-a-week Pilates exercises in young sedentary women: A 10-week longitudinal study. Physiol Behav 163: 211-218.
  11. Memmedova K (2015) Impact of Pilates on anxiety attention, motivation, cognitive function and achievement of students: Structural modeling. Procedia-Soc Behav Sci 186: 544-548.
  12. Leopoldino AAO, Avelar NC, Passos GB, Santana NÁ, Teixeira VP, et al. (2013) Effect of Pilates on sleep quality and quality of life of sedentary population. J Bodyw Mov Ther 17(1): 5-10.
  13. Baars EW, Belt-van ZE, Breitkreuz T, Martin D, Matthes H, et al. (2019) The contribution of complementary and alternative medicine to reduce antibiotic use: A narrative review of health concepts, prevention, and treatment strategies. Evidence based Complement Altern Med 2019.

© 2019 Kathy Riley Smith. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.