The Pilates Method Alliance® (PMA) intends to offer the first national certification exam for Pilates instructors in August 2005, according to Kevin Bowen, PMA’s chief executive officer and cofounder. Bowen says, “Our goal is to create a professional standard for the industry and give consumers greater protection from incompetence. We are encouraging health clubs and studios to hire only Pilates instructors who have received a third-party–accredited Pilates certification, to protect both their clients and themselves.”

The Pilates exam will consist initially of a written test but will eventually incorporate a practical component. Tests will be administered at CompUSA stores nationwide. Both PMA members and nonmembers can register for the exam for a fee of $295. Bowen says, “Once we have established an industry standard in the United States, we plan to encourage a global dialog for the implementation of an internationally accepted Pilates certification exam. We hope that all international members of the PMA and their colleagues will embrace this step forward.”

Questions regarding the Pilates exam should be directed to PMA is an international, not-for-profit professional association dedicated to the teachings of Joseph H. and Clara Pilates. Its mission is to protect the public by establishing certification and continuing education standards for Pilates professionals.

Amazing Growth Spurt for Pilates Programs

Pilates programs continue to experience strong growth, with the number of participants increasing to almost 9 million in 2004—a jump of 250% since 2001, according to a survey conducted by SGMA International. In addition to stimulating sales of millions of books, DVDs and videos, the growing popularity of the practice has led to the release of Pilates Style magazine, which made its debut in fall 2004.

Pilates Training and Resistance Training Produce Similar Results

Research that supports the benefits of Pilates training is growing. A small study found that previously conditioned females responded in an almost identical manner to supervised 12-week intervention programs of Pilates reformer training, on the one hand, and resistance training, on the other. Subjects from both groups experienced moderate changes in flexibility, posture and muscle function.

To date, research evidence has not substantiated many of the claimed benefits of Pilates training, especially among people who are already trained. The purpose of this study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2004; 36 [5], S356–57) was to evaluate and compare the training effects of the two programs on a population of conditioned females.

Researchers recruited 24 females (average age, 43 years) who had followed a program of resistance training, cardiovascular conditioning or both for at least 1 year prior to the study. Participants were divided into two groups, and they completed two exercise sessions per week over a 12-week period. The first group performed Pilates training on the reformer, and the second did resistance training with free weights and machines. By the end of the study, seven subjects remained in each group.

Researchers assessed the flexibility, body composition, muscle function and posture of participants before and after training. All subjects in both groups experienced significant improvements in leg press, core muscular endurance, back extension, curl-up and total posture scores. Researchers concluded that the two training methods led to nearly identical results in conditioned females.