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Osteoporosis and exercise: debunking the biggest myth

By Uncategorized

Osteoporosis, defined as an extreme loss of bone density, is one of the most common age-related conditions. It currently affects more than 200 million men and women worldwide.

Enter it into a Google search and you get a whopping 70.9 MILLION search results. Narrow that search to “osteoporosis and exercise” and you’re still at 43.5 million. That’s no small amount of information to sift through.

And here’s the crux — we know that almost anyone can post anything about any subject. So, when your clients run a search trying to understand more about osteoporosis and exercise, how do they even know what’s true? And how can you help them debunk deep-set myths and offer education in a way that will guide them toward a happier, healthier lifestyle?

Let’s dive right in by addressing the elephant in the room: The most common held belief surrounding osteoporosis and exercise is that low impact, lightweight, gentle exercises are the most beneficial, the “safest,” for clients who suffer from osteoporosis.

And that’s simply NOT true.

While it may seem counterintuitive, those lightweight, gentle movement exercises are going to be way riskier. What osteoporosis clients benefit from most is high-intensity resistance and impact training. Weights are good! Heavy load is good!

The Strength, Impact and Density Correlation

While there’s certainly plenty of misinformation out there, as you’re educating yourself and your clients about osteoporosis and what exercises they’ll benefit from most, take a look at this ReasearchGate study chronicling the connection between bone density and strength. There’s a ton of good stuff in there, but basically, as your clients strengthen their muscles, their bones benefit too! They’re not going to get that same benefit from light weights or light resistance.

And it’s not solely about prevention. The right exercises are safe and effective in treating osteoporosis and increasing bone density too! Studies from Science Direct (here and here), and The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research all demonstrate a direct correlation between mechanical load and management of osteoporosis.

We know these studies, though filled with great facts about exercise and osteoporosis, are also a lot to read through. Not to worry. Raphael and Cloe cover all of this and more in Episode 26 of our Pilates Elephants podcast.

Pilates and Osteoprosis

Many people often feel like osteoporosis is just a normal part of aging, and nothing can truly prevent this, but that’s not true! In fact, prevention starts at a young age. It’s no secret that our bodies do just about everything more efficiently when we are younger. That includes building and managing our bone density. If parents need one more reason to get their kids off the couch and outdoors, this is definitely a big one. Encouraging clients and their families to simply be active and strengthen their muscles is valuable.

So, can Pilates itself help treat osteoporosis? As we consider the invaluable benefits of resistance training in building muscles and couple that with our understanding that research provides a demonstrable correlation between muscle strength and bone density, then the answer is YES! Pilates is one way to improve bone health at any age. In fact, the International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends routine exercise to prevent osteoporosis. Bottom line – Pilates is typically safe and beneficial for individuals already diagnosed with osteoporosis, but clients should be encouraged to talk with their healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine.

Cueing up that next breath for a client? Here’s when to pass

By Uncategorized

A question we’ve heard plenty of times from students and professionals alike is how breath factors into our practice — or more to the point, should we even be cueing clients to breathe during their practice.

While breathing is naturally a big part of what we do here at, ahem, Breathe Education, the answer to this question is a little more variable than you might expect. Perhaps the more useful question here is why you would cue breath. The most basic reasons we might guide a client’s breathing are to relax the body and settle into the environment of the lesson. To that, it might be helpful to cue breath at the beginning or end of a class, if only to aid those transitions into or out of the Pilates headspace, or to help someone find a shape as they work through positions. We’ve all felt those instances where we can breathe our way through moments of discomfort or difficulty, so sometimes prompting that deliberate inhale-exhale can help push a stretch to the next level. That can be especially true in positions that involve spinal extensions or flexions, which map very nicely to the pattern of breathing. You can test this wherever you might be right now by taking a nice, deep in-breath. You’ll find your spine naturally wants to extend a bit, and then vice versa on the exhale.

Maybe the last big reason we’d cue someone’s breath is if we know they’re either pregnant and/or have high blood pressure. This is because breath-holding can actually raise our blood pressure as we go through the exercise, which can have some unintended side effects if those underlying conditions are present.

Ok, so those are instances where we might want to cue breath. So why wouldn’t we want to do that?

The simplest answer is this: Current research shows that motor learning (movement skills) is facilitated best by keeping things simple. Cue what is necessary to get people moving. This is especially important for beginners, who typically have enough to focus on already without the added layer of syncing up their breathing with all this unfamiliar repertoire. Breathing is the first thing we did when we were born, it’s not something we were taught to do so why do we feel the need to cue each and every breath?

So there we have it, our quick take on when and why to cue breathing! Our CEO and thinker-in-chief Raphael has touched on this subject a few times in his (very) helpful AMAs, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’ve got further questions.

AMA 23 October 2020

By Motor learning, Pilates teaching, Rehabilitation & Pain science

Topics in this video

  • 01:59 Pilates for Parkinson’s Disease
  • 07:03 If you take supplements does your body just make less of that nutrient?

  • 18:37 If technique doesn’t matter in Pilates why cue ANY movement?
  • 27:24 What are the limitations of scientific research?
  • 33:12 What to do for sciatic nerve pain

Topics in this video

  • Do disc bulges calcify?
  • Can you avulse a vertebral endplate in neutral?
  • Guidelines for hip ROM post hip replacement

  • Touching / hands on assists – can it get weird?
  • Shin splints
  • Is it hard to get work if you’re pregnant?

  • Do ice baths work?
  • Does menopause cause sore joints?
  • Exercises for neck strengthening

Ask Me Anything 16 October 2020

By anatomy, biomechanics, Biopsychosocial care, Business, Injury prevention, Motor learning, Pilates teaching, Rehabilitation & Pain science

Topics in this video

  • 02:55 PRP injections for elbow pain
  • 10:43 Mind / Muscle connection
  • 24:24 Cueing breath
  • 29:39 Do Pilates instructors charge GST?

  • 31:46 How to strengthen a bruised knee
  • 35:35 Cerebellum ectopia
  • 40:39 Spinocerebellar ataxia
  • 45:40 How long should you raise your heart rate every day?

AMA 10 October 2020

By anatomy, biomechanics, Biopsychosocial care, Injury prevention, Pilates teaching, Rehabilitation & Pain science

Topics in this video

  • 00:22 Hiatus hernia
  • 09:12 Is muscle compensation real?

  • 27:26 Are Breathe Education courses recognised internationally
  • 30:36 What causes lateral pelvic tilt?
  • 39:20 Can you train yourself to flex your hip like a gymnast?

  • 44:12 How soon can you flex your spine after microdiscectomy?
  • 52:14 Knee pain when running – my knees roll in!

Send your questions to

AMA 2 October 2020

By anatomy, biomechanics, Business, Motor learning, Pilates industry, Pilates teaching

This Week’s Questions:

  1. Pilates considerations for Crohn’s disease
  2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of active and passive stretching?
  3. Why do people say “flex your ankle to protect the knee” during a figure 4 glute stretch?
  4. Exercise considerations for arthritis in the hip
  5. Do I need a permit to run Pilates sessions in my home, or at the park?
  6. Pilates considerations for spinal fusion
  7. How to retrain movement for a below-the-knee amputee
  8. Can I work with children under 18?
  9. What are your recommendations for books on the mental side of Pilates, and mindset in general?

Australian Business Licence Information Service ABLIS

Book recommendations:

  • Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg
  • The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
  • Change Maker by John Berardi
  • Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
  • Motivational Interviewing by William Miller and Steven Rollnick

AMA 18 September 2020

By anatomy, biomechanics, Pilates teaching

Topics in this video

00:14 – Abdominal separation error correction
02:20 – What reformer should I buy for home, and for commercial?
08:56 – Dislocated knee – should I get surgery?
12:43 – Pins and needles in the sacrum

15:40 – What gives way when you dislocate your shoulder, and what do they fix in surgery?
22:12 – The Pilates In America Study
24:53 – Is PRP injection helpful for tennis elbow?
28:56 – Adenomyosis and Pilates

AMA 4 September 2020

By anatomy, biomechanics, Pilates industry, Pilates teaching, Rehabilitation & Pain science

Topics in this video

  • Why can’t I do the roll up?
  • How to prepare for an initial client session
  • What to do for an injured neck with arm pain

  • What is my Pilates journey?
  • What to do for nausea with exercise
  • Why does my lower back feel tight and jammed?

  • Why can’t I get up off the floor from a kneeling lunge?
  • How to do diaphragmatic breathing
  • Is protein powder helpful for strength training?

Caged Lion – The Interview with John Howard Steel

By Pilates industry, Pilates teaching

John Howard Steel is about to upend many things you thought you know about Pilates.

John learned Pilates directly from Joseph Pilates. He practiced at Joe’s gym on Eighth Avenue from 1963 until Joe’s death in 1967. After Joe died, John was instrumental in the continuation of Contrology; along with two others he formed a committee that kept the gym going and supported Clara, and he single-handedly convinced Romana to take on the starring role as Joe’s successor.

John’s book Caged Lion is the surprising and delightful history of Pilates, from Joe’s mysterious early life, through his time in New York and John’s experience of learning Pilates (Contrology) from Joe, and striding arm-in-arm with Joe through the streets of New York, listening to Joe lecture about his favourite and only subject of conversation, Contrology.

But the book goes far beyond Joe’s life, it is the story of Pilates itself – how it transcended Joe’s personality and his lifetime, and became a worldwide phenomenon bringing happiness to millions.

I have been teaching Pilates for 16 years and I was repeatedly surprised by Caged Lion, not to mention entertained. It is an enthralling read; a genuinely well-written book which brings the characters to life in 3 dimensions. If you have even a passing interest in Pilates you absolutely must read it, trust me.

In this interview John and I discuss Joe’s personality, his teaching style and what it was like to learn from him, we talk about what defines Pilates and ultimately how it doesn’t matter what kind of Pilates you do, but rather HOW you do it.

Raphael Bender
CEO Breathe Education

AMA 24 July 2020

By anatomy, biomechanics, Pilates teaching, Urinary incontinence

Topics in this video

(In order)

  • Where did you study exercise physiology online
  • What can Pilates instructors claim on tax?
  • What sound and video equipment do you use?
  • What exercise intensity for cancer survivors?
  • Exercise for dementia, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy

  • Uterine prolapse and pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Can you build muscles when breastfeeding?
  • Should we cue pelvic floor?
  • Will I get a certificate for the anatomy course?
  • As a Pilates instructor can you create your own moves?
  • Is Pilates enough, or do I need to do cardio too?

  • What should you do if you suspect a client is over-exercising?
  • What if you find equal amounts of evidence for both points of view – which one do you believe?
  • Can focussing on individual muscles cause injury?
  • Can nerve injuries cause symptoms?
  • Can vitamin C help with hypermobility issues?

Wrists need to get stronger too

By biomechanics, Biopsychosocial care, Pilates industry, Pilates teaching

I had a wonderful question in my Saturday matwork masterclass for Breathe Education where we opened up a discussion about feeling discomfort in wrists. I’m sure that we’ve all been there. You’re about 5 planks into a sequence and all you want to do is drop down to your forearms. Often at times we see our clients sit back after a long stretch series and gingerly roll their wrists. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll get an eye roll too.

Let’s begin the process of reframing the way we look at value of discomfort in different parts of our body.

Read More..

AMA Ask Me Anything 10 July 2020

By anatomy, biomechanics, Injury prevention, Online teaching, Pilates industry, Pilates teaching, Pregnancy, Rehabilitation & Pain science, Uncategorized

Topics in this video

  • How to find clients for your online classes
  • Neutral vs imprint – why?
  • When/if it’s important to cue breath
  • What to do for tenosynovitis of the thumb
  • When rehabilitating an injury, should we also work the uninjured side of the body?

  • Can a snapped Achilles tendon heal without surgery?
  • Exercises to help someone with abdominal separation
  • Is high intensity weight training safe during pregnancy?
  • Pilates considerations for Scheuermann’s disease

  • Exercise considerations for low PAPP-A during pregnancy?
  • Why do my hamstrings always feel tight despite stretching and rolling?
  • Exercises for degenerative knee arthritis
  • Sacroiliac joint sprain
  • What should I study next?

Does an assessment actually add any value for clients with low back pain?

By anatomy, biomechanics, Biopsychosocial care, Pilates teaching, Rehabilitation & Pain science

Mitchell Gibbs is a PhD candidate at Western Sydney University where he researches chronic pain, pain science, and exercise. Mitch also has a Master of Research in chronic pain and exercise, and a bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science.

Mitchell’s 2018 paper Buy In For Back Pain – Does Individualization Matter?  had some very surprising findings in relation to the benefits of doing a thorough physical assessment on clients with low back pain. The paper was published in the Journal of Clinical Exercise Physiology.

In this conversation Mitch talks through the research process, and discusses what he thinks the findings mean for clinicians.

You can find Mitch on Instagram @mitchgibbs.aes @rethink.mvmnt

The New Future of Pilates with Lesley Logan

By Business, Pilates industry, Pilates teaching


In this conversation I talk with Lesley Logan of Profitable Pilates and Online Pilates Classes. We share our thoughts on the current situation with COVID-19 lockdown and the closure of Pilates studios around the world.

Both Lesley and I see this as an amazing opportunity to “Reset to Factory Settings”, to let go of things you have been holding on to out of fear or inertia. It is also an incredible time of change and opportunity in the Pilates industry. Things are not going to return to the way they were before – here’s how we think you can take advantage of this seismic shift and turn this into an amazing opportunity for yourself, your teaching, your clients and your business. And we want to encourage you to charge what you’re worth!

Manifesto For The Pilates Industry

By Business, Pilates industry, Pilates teaching, Uncategorized

These beliefs are our compass: We think they should be yours too

Challenging times call for clear vision, optimism, creativity and agility

  1. The value of an instructor lies not in equipment or premises but in the client’s experience, results, and emotions
  2. Classes are not a public service but an exchange of value and should be priced as such
  3. People can learn physical skills to a high level in a purely online format
  4. The present restrictions will probably continue until the end of 2020
  5. This situation represents a fundamental paradigm shift and a massive opportunity for Pilates instructors, studio owners and the Pilates industry
  6. After restrictions are lifted, things are unlikely to return to the way they were before: The industry worldwide will have new norms, new technologies, new competitors, new consumer expectations, and ultimately a vastly different competitive landscape
  7. We don’t know what the world or the Pilates industry will look like in 12 months, so the best way to prepare for success is to develop agility, resourcefulness and resilience
  8. Instructors and studio owners who wholeheartedly welcome the challenges and leap into the new opportunities inherent in these times will flourish

Online classes have many benefits for clients and instructors including:

  • greater class numbers without crowding
  • no travel time, transport cost, or parking required
  • because of no travel time, classes can potentially be done at any time of day including during work hours
  • increased opportunity for social connection
  • increased geographical catchment area
  • multiple clients in same family can workout together potentially for one price
  • no child-minding needed
  • no queue to sign-in or use the change room

Resources For Teaching Pilates Online

By Business, Pilates industry, Pilates teaching

How to keep optimistic

  • Do things for other people
  • Avoid negative news, movies, books and people
  • Start your day with something that inspires you – read a book, workout to music, meditate
  • Write down or tell someone 3 things you’re grateful for each day
  • Contribute to your community

How to add value to your clients and your community

Don’t just try to do what you did offline, but take it online. People need a whole constellation of things that aren’t included in “here’s a sequence of moves to do”

  • community
  • socialising
  • routine
  • accountability
  • motivation
  • encouragement
  • challenge
  • goal attainment

Practical examples and information to get you started