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Pilates-new Age Gimmick or More?

often misinterpreted or carried out badly,” she says.

"It is easily done incorrectly by people mistakenly holding their breath or sucking in so far that they round their back."

As a result, the correct muscles are not targeted and, over time, the back becomes more vulnerable than before.

Claire Small, a spokesperson for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, echoes her concerns.

"In some people, attempting to engage the core muscles can trigger a reaction that makes their condition deteriorate," she says.

"In theory, all the core, abdominal and pelvic muscles should contract simultaneously so that they inflate like a balloon inside the abdominal cavity, but incorrect technique can cause the pelvic muscles to descend which is bad news as it is potentially weakening for the back."

Yet try telling this to cyclist Jenny Kingsley who broke her hip and suffered constant back pain. She went in for Pilates at the recommendation of her doctor and physiotherapist.

Kingsley had always written off Pilates as a New Age gimmick or an excuse for those who were pretending to exercise.

Not anymore. In her words: “The goal is to strengthen the core or "powerhouse" of your body, the area between the lower ribs and hips. The theory is that a strong centre supports and decompresses the spine, so posture improves. The emphasis is on stretching. The range of movement determines the intensity of the exercise. So you may do small circles with your legs for the first few months and wider circles once you are stronger and can keep your back and pelvis in the correct alignment.

Once your body is no longer scrunched up, your insides function more effectively. The breathing technique helps you breathe fully and wakes up your mind and body. For me, there is gain without pain and, because Pilates makes me feel so good inside and out, I keep coming back for more. My tummy is flatter, I feel suppler, I ins
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