Born in Germany in 1880, Pilates founder Joseph Hubertus Pilates was a performer and boxer who developed his routine of exercises based on his self study of yoga, Zen and ancient Greek and Roman physical regimens. At the outbreak of WWI, Pilates was interned in the camps where he taught his fellow camp members his routines, which he called Contrology at the time. After being transferred to  camp where he was in charge of caring for sick internees, he began to devise equipment to rehab patients using springs from the beds, rigging them to create spring resistance and movement for the bedridden.

Pilates developed pulley systems that allowed patients to work core muscles while remaining fairly sedentary, Interestingly, at a time when flu victims were dying by the thousands, none of Joseph Pilates' patients died.

Pilates had developed more than 500 specific exercises, using both mat work and five major pieces of unique apparatus designed to develop the body's muscles uniformly. Pilates goes one step further than yoga by strengthening the muscles as well as stretching and relaxing them. Some Pilates methods use both mat and machine work. The equipment simply offers added resistance.

Pilates should be done two to three times a week, alternating with cardio exercises on the other days for a well-rounded routine.