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The Pilates exercise method was created by Joseph Pilates who was born in 1880 in Germany. He was unwell as a child and so became interested in and practised sport and physical fitness as a way to feel and look better. During the war he was interned on the Isle of Man, where he began to develop his fitness programme which he taught to his fellow internees. 

After the war, Joseph Pilates emigrated to New York, where he met his wife Clara and set up his first fitness studio in New York at an address he shared with the New York City Ballet. His studio soon began to attract the 'elite' of New York with leading ballet dancers coming to him because his exercises perfected and complemented their traditional exercise programme. Actors and actresses, sportspersons, the rich and the famous were all attracted to a workout that built strength without adding bulk, balancing that strength with flexibility, and achieving the perfect harmony between mind and muscle.

Joseph Pilates designed a variety of equipment, for which he used the term "apparatus". Each apparatus was designed to help accelerate the process of stretchingstrengtheningbody alignment and increased core strength started by the mat work.

Today Pilates is taught in several forms, directly reflecting the legacy of Joseph Pilates, who developed the method some 80 years ago. He did not lay down a formal training programme, with the result that, on his death, his 'disciples' continued teaching by adding their own variations to the core philosophy and exercises. This flexibility in approach is one of the reasons why Pilates has been so successful over this time period.

Pilates is a holistic exercise practice that works to improve flexibility, strength, alignment and control of the body.