Pilates & Children

“In childhood, habits are easily formed-good and bad. Why not concentrate on the formation of only good habits and thus avoid the necessity later on in life of attempting to correct bad habits…the proper development of body and mind, through the new science of “Contrology” is what must [be taught to]* the child”  Joseph Pilates 

In his book “Your Health” Joseph Pilates shares his vision of teaching Pilates to children from a very young age, in all schools and colleges. He strongly outlines his dream of educating children in correct breathing, posture, unlimited natural exercise, correct clothing, and even showering techniques! 

It was not only Joseph Pilates who encouraged  children to do Pilates, so did many of the Elders including Carola Trier, Kathy Grant  and Romana Kryzanowska.

Carola was the first person to write a Pilates book for children called Exercise: What It Is, What It Does.

By its very nature, Pilates brings a unique learning experience based on functional, natural  movement skills and patterns. It can compliment more traditional sports and physical activities, with fun and non-competitive interaction. 

Research clearly shows that exercise during childhood positively and profoundly affects health in later adult life. Pilates brings so many opportunities and benefits to children.

The more obvious physical health benefits include:

  • Improving general fitness including strength and flexibility
  • Increasing the ability to concentrate and focus
  • Improving proprioception and coordination
  • Improving sporting performance 

Yet, it is perhaps the psychosocial and mental health benefits of children doing Pilates which is the most positively impactful. These benefits include:

  • Self efficacy
  • Self-concept
  • Self worth
  • Motivation and goal orientation
  • Team work
  • Reduces anxiety and stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Helps social interaction and peer acceptance

I recently had the privilege of  teaching at an alternative education centre for young people who have struggled with mainstream school and some of whom have various forms of neurodiversity. It was such a wonderful experience to see how the young people gradually engaged more, found focus, laughed and moved. After exercising for 40 minutes, we discussed the benefits of exercise and mental health, how simple breathing exercises connected with movement can help reduce anxiety and stress and as one teenager said, ” The floor got really comfortable!” 

Knowing what an incredibly strong advocate Joseph Pilates was of children doing Pilates, it is surprising that more children are not given the opportunity to do Pilates. Imagine bringing the incredible benefits of Pilates to children from a young age, enhancing  them throughout school and into adulthood- what a gift that would be! 

To understand more about the benefits of teaching Pilates to children and how to structure and implement classes for children, please click here. 

*In “Return to Life Through Contrology, it is written, “is what must be taught the child” The brackets indicate a grammatical change I have made.

Images shown with permission from @orginalpilatesphotos, research photos taken at the Library for the Performing Arts.

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