Book Review: Science of Movement, Exercise and Mental Health by Jennifer Pilotti

This book is about how movement can improve mood and self esteem generally as well as assist people manage conditions such as anxiety and depression. I’m sure this idea is not new to any of us but the book provides some pretty solid evidence, is easy to read, has a nice friendly tone and offers some handy tips. The author has academic qualifications in exercise and movement science and takes an evidence based approach to the issue, with extensive references, so the conclusions are convincing.

She is not a Pilates teacher so I suspect most of us will find the concepts more useful than the specific exercises. The first half of book is therefore probably more helpful then the second (although the “practical applications” clearly have Pilates equivalents – the programming approach is just not usually what we most of us do)

It’s a huge topic, so even half a book is necessarily a summary of the theory and concepts and she goes broad rather than deep – ie covers multiple aspects of neuroanatomy/science and the current understanding of anxiety/depression/trauma etc. Very useful for someone new and a refresher for others – and may prompt interest to follow up certain areas. Like any book (course, workshop) there’s always something that is new or a different slant on something familiar.

She lists extensive references/bibliography so there are lots of sources if you want to delve deeper.

  • The chapter on “Gentle Movement” is probably the most directly related to Pilates principles and I found her comments on breath (when to and when not to focus on it) and effective listening insightful.
  • The concept of Enriched Environments (“environments where animals have space, access to sensory-stimulating objects and opportunities for physical activity and social interaction”) – she points out that research on humans is less advanced but the discussion is interesting and easy to see the applications for us.
  • The section on Effective Coaching was a good overview, nicely expressed and would be useful material for a training program. Even if you’ve been teaching for a while – in fact particularly if you’ve been teaching for a while – self reflection on your teaching/coaching approach is invaluable.

The second half of the book (exercises/practical applications) might prompt some ideas, but maybe not so much new things for qualified Pilates teachers.

Overall, it adds up to a convincing support for our proposition that what we do in a Pilates studio can change lives.

Meredith Brooks, PAA Treasurer


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Science of Movement, Exercise and Mental Health by Jennifer Pilotti was generously supplied for review by Woodslane Health and is available to PAA members with 20% discount.

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