If it’s tight abs and long, lean limbs that you’re after, Pilates is an ideal exercise system to work into your weekly fitness routine. Founded by Joseph H. Pilates in Germany during World War I, the exercise routine focuses on a series of movements zeroing in on core strength.

Through alignment of the spine and pelvic floor, as well as an emphasis on breath control and deliberate movements, every exercise in Pilates is centered around core stability. In Pilates, the core is referred to as your powerhouse, which is the foundation for all movement. 

Pilates is an exercise for both the mind and body with attention to fluid movements, coordination, precision and balance. With these movements, the arms and legs act as levers to strengthen the abdominals, hips and back. A strong core promotes better posture, and Pilates leaves you feeling inches taller and weightless.

Today, Pilates classes are offered as either a mat class or an apparatus class. A mat class is typically a group class with little to no props, that might include light weights or the Pilates Ring. An apparatus class is conducted on a Pilates Reformer, a machine with a system of pullies for varying levels of resistance. Other apparatuses include the Pilates Cadillac and the Chair.

While small group and semi-private classes are increasingly available for apparatus classes, it’s a good idea for beginners to either ease into Pilates with a group mat class or invest in private lessons in order to learn the principles of Pilates safely. Group classes can vary in price from $20 to $30 while private lessons can cost upwards of $80 per class.

Pilates has also inspired a number of other popular core workouts, including Jet Set Pilates, barre class, and Core Fusion at Exhale Mind Body Spas. To ensure a true Pilates experience, make sure your instructor is certified in Classical Pilates or STOTT Pilates, a modernized form of Joseph Pilates’ teachings.