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When most people think of Pilates, they think of the exercise trend that was the butt of a hundred ’90s sitcom jokes. In reality, this system of stretches and workouts is a great option for people of all ages looking to stay active, tone their muscles, and improve their balance, all with minimal space and equipment requirements. One need only look at the history of Pilates to understand how this century-old discipline has helped shape exercise science today. U nlikely B eginnings The man for whom the Pilates system is named, Joseph Pilates, was no stranger to health challenges. Born in Germany in the late 19th century, Joseph suffered from both asthma and rickets, making any form of physical activity difficult. But rather than shy away from exercise, he enthusiastically followed his father into gymnastics, later picking up bodybuilding and martial arts. Instead of being held back by his body, Joseph made it his life’s mission to help himself and others live healthy lives. Eventually, he would begin developing his own fitness theories. L ight in a D ark T ime Joseph became a known quantity in the fitness world, going as far as training Scotland Yard officers in self-defense after moving to England in 1912. Then the First World War broke out. Despite having B alance B orn out of H ardship T he O rigin of the P ilates S ystem
worked closely with English law enforcement, Joseph’s nationality was enough to land him in an internment camp alongside fellow German citizens. As the world was consumed by the bloodiest conflict it had ever seen, the young fitness instructor did what he did best: He helped those around him get stronger and healthier. K nowledge T hrough A dversity In this internment camp, the system that would eventually become Pilates was developed. Because of the constraints of captivity, Joseph had to devise exercises that didn’t rely heavily on equipment and could be performed in tight, confined spaces. To this day, Pilates remains one of the most flexible, scalable fitness methods around. The techniques first developed by Joseph Pilates are still practiced today, helping thousands of people develop their core postural muscles, gain better fitness, and improve their balance. As a result of his forward-looking techniques and steadfast spirit of personal development, Joseph Pilates remains an inspiring figure in the world of physical fitness.
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