A qualitative study of the experiences and perceptions of adults with chronic musculoskeletal conditions following a 12‐week Pilates exercise program

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The aim of the present study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of adult patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions following a Pilates exercise program. A qualitative approach was taken to both data collection and analysis, with alignment to the philosophy of interpretive phenomenology. Participants included 15 women and seven men with a range of chronic musculoskeletal conditions, including nonspecific low back pain, peripheral joint osteoarthritis and a range of post-surgical conditions. The age range was from 36 years to 83 years, and the mean age was 57 years (standard deviation 14.1 years).

I can touch my toes now—I have not done that in ages, and can get my shoes and socks on easily. Getting in and out of bed and getting dressed is easier because of more movement in my back and hips, which is important as I live on my own.


Data were collected via digital recordings of four focus groups in three North‐West of England physiotherapy clinics. The data were transcribed verbatim and then analyzed using a thematic framework. Data were verified by a researcher and randomly selected participants, and agreement was achieved between all parties.

My back aches a lot less. I can stand for an hour or two now—before it would ache after a few minutes, and walking on site now is much easier.


The results were organized into five main themes: physical improvements; Pilates promotes an active lifestyle: improved performance at work and hobbies; psychosocial benefits and improved confidence; increased autonomy in managing their own condition; and motivation to continue with exercise.

I thought it was an inevitable part of getting older. I think Pilates turns the clock back, in a way, and I am still improving steadily every week at 50, and actually reversed normal aging, feeling older, stiffer, weaker and flabby.


The study was the first to investigate individual perceptions of the impact of Pilates on the daily lives of people with chronic conditions. The Pilates‐based exercise program enabled the participants to function better and manage their condition more effectively and independently. Further to previous work, the study revealed psychological and social benefits which increase motivation to adhere to the program and promote a healthier lifestyle.

Research by Lynne Gaskell and Anita E. Williams from the University of Salford, Salford, UK. To view the full research study, click here:https://rdcu.be/bf74U