Pilates -- World War I therapy becomes popular pastime

By Emily Brainard, Army Flier StaffMay 13, 2010

Pilates -- World War I therapy becomes popular pastime
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

(Editor's note: This is part of an ongoing series focusing on Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness classes. DFMWR activities offer ways to help make the Army's Families resilient to the service's ongoing warfight.)

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Pilates originated in England as a rehabilitation exercise for wounded World War I Soldiers.

Servicemembers and their Families still participate in the same routines invented by Joseph Pilates almost 100 years ago to improve fitness and garner health benefits.

Pilates incorporates yoga, boxing and gymnastics for a "whole body workout," said Kate Fairfield, a Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Facility Pilates instructor. Routines focus on whole body movements, especially strengthening people's cores and spines.

"It will take off inches and improve your cardio," she said. "It's beneficial if you have joint issues because strengthening your body helps."

Pilates student-teacher Mary Serre said the activity strengthens people by targeting muscles normal weight lifting routines don't. The variety of movements reach deep into muscle tissue, providing a one-of-a-kind workout, she said. Building efficient muscles also improves people's posture and makes them feel better from the inside out.

After Nancy Kiszely's children reached adulthood and left home, she said she picked up Pilates as a new hobby. She now regularly attends classes at Fortenberry-Colton.

"This is how I keep myself active and busy," she said.

Meredith Frye said she practiced this century-old workout to get in shape for her wedding and wants to pick the habit back up again. She encouraged everyone to give Pilates a try because of its numerous health benefits.

"I love Pilates and I miss it," Frye said. "I trimmed up (when doing Pilates regularly). I felt taller and leaner. It gives you good flexibility and it's a good core workout."

The variety of the exercises performed throughout 60-minute classes is what keeps Sarah O'Rourke coming back.

Before beginning any fitness program, however, proper planning is necessary.

Any exercise without diet is futile, Fairfield noted. As a Pilates enthusiast, she consumes about five small meals daily, filling her plate with healthy foods like nuts, vegetables and fish. Drinking plenty of water is also key to becoming healthier. She suggests people wishing to improve their physical fitness consult nutrition professionals at Lyster Army Health Clinic to match proper diets and workout goals.

For those attendingclasses, PFF staff provides all necessary equipment, including mats and props - such as rings, balls, rollers and straps. Fairfield suggests people wear comfortable workout clothing and noted participants perform Pilates barefoot. People of all ages and fitness levels are welcome to join her classes.

To register for Pilates or any other PFF fitness classes, call 255-3794. Fees start at $3 per session, $5 for one week or $20 per month. Schedules can be found at <a href="http://www.ftruckermwr.com/PhysicalFitnessFacility" target="_blank">www.ftruckermwr.com/PhysicalFitnessFacility</a> or by visiting either installation gym.