REPs Registrar responds to Daily Mail article

REPs Registrar Jean-Ann Marnoch has responded to an article published in the Daily Mail claiming Pilates could have hidden dangers and make bad backs worse.

The article tells the story of a woman who has scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine) who took Pilates classes shortly after giving birth. She told the Daily Mail the exercises aggravated her weakened spine causing one of her discs to rupture.

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Registrar Jean-Ann Marnoch commented: “The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) was set up to deal with this very issue of inappropriately qualified instructors.

“Using National Occupational Standards written by SkillsActive, the sector skills council for the industry, we’ve established various levels of membership which band fitness professionals according to their qualifications.

“Currently only fitness professionals with an approved level 3 certificate in Pilates can register with us as Pilates teachers. Pilates is graded as a level 3 qualification which reflects the level of expertise needed to teach it properly.

“Pilates is a very well-established and structured discipline and should only ever be taught by an appropriately qualified instructor. Taught well, and in small groups, it is a highly effective exercise discipline.

“However, as demonstrated in the article above, taught carelessly it can (as can any exercise) exacerbate a pre-existing condition.

“Any instructor worth their salt will check a clients’ health before embarking on an exercise regime with them and work with their personal health and physical limits.

“All 29,000 plus REPs’ members (including 1,700 Pilates instructors) have their qualifications listed on the REPs’ register which members of the public can access for free via

“REPs would urge any person wanting to use the services of a fitness professional (no matter what they teach) to ask if their instructor is REPs’ registered and verify their qualifications. In the same way you wouldn’t use a non-Gas Safe registered engineer to service your boiler you should check your instructor is REPs’ registered.”

8 responses to “REPs Registrar responds to Daily Mail article

  1. Good article, and highlights the importance of choosing an instructor carefully and look out for the cow boys!

  2. Jacqui Ryan

    I totally agree with Jean and thats one of the reasons why it is so important to register on REPS.

  3. I specialise in corrective exercise, postural analysis, movement dysfunction and correction.

    Pilates assumes that every participant has what’s known as anterior or forward tilting pelvis/ hips where the back tightens and the stomach weakens therefore requiring strengthening. However, some people have posterior/backward tilting hips, caused by behavioural habits and postural adaptations. In this instance, their stomach muscles are tight and short whereas their back is lengthened and weakened. Further strengthening their stomach in a pilates class will worsen this problem.

    In addition, pilates classes rarely include any stretching exercises, preceding those strengthening exercises. Due to a process known as reciprocal inhibition, an extremely tight lower back will prohibit weakened stomach muscles from activating correctly. This will cause increased activation and tightening of the lower back muscles, resulting in pain. This will also result in other muscles, such as the neck, over-activating to compensate for weak, inhibited stomach muscles , further worsening someone’s upper spine/cervical vertebrae alignment, increasing muscle tightness and movement restriction around the neck and shoulders.

    Someone can achieve increased core strength yet not correctly align their core/lumbo-pelvic region. Liken it to incorrectly fitting/securing a car tyre then trying to accelerate faster and faster. Injury/ damage will ultimately occur if not correctly fitted/aligned. It is essential therefore to use selective, corrective stretching exercises in conjunction with strengthening exercises as to ‘neutralise the lumbo-pelvic’ region prior to strengthening the core muscles. Many injuries, misalignments and movement dysfunctions in the upper body and lower limbs stem from a misaligned pelvis/ lumbopelvic region.

    Many pilates exercises also encourage excess forward flexion of the cervical and thoracic spine, causing muscles around the neck and shoulders to overactivate, tighten and cause kyphotic posture of the upper body. I have treated 2 pilates teachers (and a number of their class participants) for such problems caused by these exercises

    In addition, the body is ultimately designed to work as a complete unit, with muscles activating synergistically/simultaneously. Pilates only works muscles in isolation opposed to integrated exercises, where groups of muscles are worked as designed/intended to. Therefore muscles will activate out of sequence, unfamiliar with working with their intended counterparts, increasing the likelihood of injury occuring due to faulty activation patterns.

    Like yoga, there are some pilates exercises that I would encourage (following selective stretching) and others that I would avoid. Ideally, everyone should have a kinetic chain assessment to ensure the qualified instructor knows what that client’s body specifically needs in terms of stretching and strengthening. Would a woman allow a wedding dress designer to make a dress for her special day (without measuring her first) based on the measurements and body shape of 20-40 other different people? Would a doctor perform the same operation on a patient to that performed on many others, without individually assessing what exactly the person’s body condition is and requires? Yet people are all too often prescribed the same exercises as 5-30 other people in a pilates/exercise class, without having their body’s individual postural alignment, muscular activation/inactivation and movement dysfunctions initially assessed first. These can differ completely from those of other participants.

  4. Caroline Litman

    Hi David

    Please don’t make such generalising sweeping assumptions about Pilates teachers and their methods.It is utter nonsense to suggest that Pilates teachers are only taught about the anterior tilting pelvis and have no concept of how to manage clients with a posterior tilt. Similarly, to claim that we don’t use stretches with our clients is also ludicrous.

    Interestingly I have recently read an article that claims passive stretching reduces performance before exercise and that dynamic stretching is now in favour. Pilates includes masses of dynamic stretches.

    I agree that there can be an over emphasis on forward flexion of the cervical and thoracic spine, especially in beginner classes. But a good Pilates teacher will work their clients in all planes of movement, within their limitations.The full classical mat offers a full and challenging array of exercise in all planes to strengthen and release.

    I agree that in a class enviroment not all exercises are the perfect fit for everyone, but any teacher worth their salt will adapt exercises to suit individuals. For this reason all new clients must come to me for a one-to-one assessment before joining class. In addition, very few teachers run classes of more than 10 to 12 people. Classes of thirty tend to be run by profit hungry gyms or local authority discounted classes. Any one with an ounce of common sense would know that they can’t be doing client focussed Pilates in such an enviroment.

    In my experience the benefits of attending a weekly, well run Pilates class that is affordable and available are generally overwhelmingly positive for my clients. It would be lovely if all my clients could afford the kind of specialist interventions you are advocating, but this is simply not a realistic goal for most people. Also, it is important to remember that we’re not just trreating their bodies. Many of my clients get a great sense of personal, social and mental wellbeing from attending class.Bad backs create a considerable amount of mental health problems, as I know only too well from my previous career as a psychiatrist for the NHS. It is a joy to see the positive results I get with my clients.

    • I agree with Caroline. I also see alot of Pilates instructors who don’t know what they are doing who try to add more and more complex exercises to their sessionns for variety whether their clients are capable of doing them or not (somehting that seems prevalent across the entire fitness industry). Pilates certainly does not ‘assume that everyone has an anterior tilt’ I think David must have had some bad experiences with shoddy Pilates instructors but it’s not fair to tar us all with the same brush. There are great ones, good ones and dodgy ones much as there is in everything in life!

  5. Well said Caroline. I couldn’t have put it better. David…do you really think that properly qualified Pilates don’t know what you have said? And that the have never heard of Reciprocal Inhibition? Do yourself a favour and get off your high horse before you adductors get chaffed!

  6. God bless the Daily Mail, didn’t they write something about exercise doesn’t help depression? While I think it’s important to highlight the importance of working with professionals, using one example of anything is never good.

  7. Sally

    In contrast… I have a scoliosis and came to Pilates in 2003 to strengthen my body after the birth of my 3rd child to relieve my joint pains (on the advice of an NHS Physiotherapist). I am now pain free, a Level 3 Pilates teacher & Stott certified in Mat & preparing for my Stott Pillates Reformer exam. 🙂

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