Pilates Inspiration – Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace

Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace in Dance 'Til Dawn

The video below features former World Argentine Tango champions, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace performing The Last Tango, a beautiful example of all eight principles of Pilates in action:

  • core strength or centering
  • alignment
  • breathing
  • co-ordination
  • relaxation, i.e. only using the muscles needed to execute a movement, allowing the others to relax
  • flowing movement
  • stamina
  • concentration.

See for yourself…


Bonus item… Regular visitors to the website will now that EP HQ is very interested in body art.  This week we came across the photograph below of a famous female musician painted by Swiss surrealist artist (and designer on films such as Alien and Prometheus), H R Giger.

Can you work out who the woman is and who took the photo?  The answers are in the tags listed at the foot of this news item…

Chris Stein photo of Debbie Harry painted by H R Giger




Inside Health Exercise Special

street art

Radio 4’s Inside Health returned for a new series last week with a special edition on exercise.  There were some interesting findings, which may be of interest to anyone who is trying to be more active, or to those who already exercise on a regular basis.  If you’d like to listen to the half-hour programme, you’ll find it here.  Not enough time?  The key points from what was discussed are summarised below:

  • According to Philip Conaghan, Consultant Rheumatologist and Professor of Musculoskeletal Medicine at the University of Leeds, weak muscles rather than damaged joints are behind many aches and pains. Generalised joint pains are common.  Often they’re the sort of pains that give five to 10 minutes of morning stiffness that gets worse as the day goes on, so the more you load your joint the more pain you get.  These are termed mechanical joint pains. The root cause of a lot of that pain could be some joint damage, but for most people it’s muscle weakness driving the pain.  Muscle loss can lead to the tendons in the joints overworking, which in turn can result in tendonitis.
  • There is excellent trial evidence that proves muscle strengthening reduces joint pain.  It’s not so important what exercise you do, so long as you’re doing something.  When you’re very weak it’s best to start with just one or two things you can do every day for 30 or 60 minute bursts.  Exercises to strengthen muscles are highly beneficial in alleviating mechanical joint pains.  You can rebuild muscle at any age, but it’s not a quick fix.  It takes time and regular exercise.
  • People are often concerned they will damage their joints faster if they exercise. They are worried about the pain they experience when they exercise.  Conaghan recommends getting strong first to avoid damaging the joints.  For example, lying flat, doing straight leg raises or using a squeeze ball to strengthen your forearm, won’t damage the joints.  He says it will hurt when you start doing it, but muscles ache after they do appropriate exercise and that’s the sort of ache we’re looking for. When you get a bit stronger low weight bearing exercises should be added.  So, for example, for very weak patients, walking laps in a swimming pool is highly beneficial – it’s non weight bearing and it’s fantastic exercise for the lower limb muscles.  Then as you get stronger you might move to an exercise bike or a cross-trainer where the impact is very low.
  • True arthritis pain in the joint may not be reversible, but will still reduce a significant amount with muscle strengthening.

Alex Soth

  • Being weak and out of shape doesn’t just affect how you feel, it can influence your chances of recovery from serious illnesses like cancer.  There were concerns previously that if you’re unwell you should rest and that will help you recover, but studies have demonstrated that exercise has a protective effect against at least four different types of cancers.  Movement, exercise and mobilisation early after either surgery for cancer, or during treatment has been shown to improve your long term outcome.
  • Dr Denny Levitt, Consultant in peri-operative medicine and critical care at the University Hospital Southampton cited a recent study which suggested that about 10% of post-menopausal breast cancer in Australasia could be attributed directly to physical inactivity, i.e. one tenth of the cases of breast cancer can be related to being inactive.
  • World Health Organisation and UK government guidelines suggest that we should be doing around 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week.  Moderate intensity exercise would be going for a brisk walk or a cycle ride.  You should try and do this in bouts of exercise of around 30 minutes, so five times a week, 30 minutes of exercise.  Alternatively with high intensity or strenuous exercise such as running or playing a game of football, only 75 minutes of exercise a week would be sufficient to reduce your health risks.
  • Sanjay Sharma, Professor of Clinical Cardiology at St George’s, University of London says, for joggers and runners, the sweet spot for maximum reward in return for minimum effort –  in cardiovascular terms at least –  lies around training for about 2-2.5 hours a week, at speeds ranging from 15 minute miles, to around eight minute miles for faster athletes.
  • The NHS Couch to 5K app is a useful way to get non-runners into running.  The app takes you from being able to walk and not go very far to being able to run a 5K race.
  • A study suggests that people in the UK aged between 65 and 74, only 20% of men and 17% of women are getting enough exercise.  That falls after the age of 75 to only 9% of men and 6% of women.
  • There are some excellent studies looking at the effects of exercise in elderly frail people.  They suggest that exercises concentrated on strength, balance and some weight training, as well as walking activities, help to improve mortality rates, as well as cutting down on the number of falls.

Old lady stretching



Embody Pilates in Greece

Leap frog on Llandudno pier, 1935

Late Summer 2016, Embody Pilates will be running two week-long Pilates courses for Skyros Holidays in the very beautiful Atsitsa Bay, Greece.

Suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels, the dates of the two courses are:

  • Sunday 11th to 18th September 2016
  • Sunday 18th to 25th September 2016

As well as Pilates, there are lots of other courses on offer to try:

  • creative writing,
  • trapeze,
  • singing,
  • yoga,
  • windsurfing,
  • drawing and painting,
  • cabaret,
  • mindfulness.

For full details on all the courses, the facilitators running them, the cost of each holiday, the accommodation and how to get to Atsitsa Bay, please follow this link.

Atsitsa, Greece

Re my facilitator’s photo…oh dear! I’m afraid this is what happens when I have a thimbleful of alcohol.

To get us in the holiday mood, here’s one of the best summer tracks of all time, The Ramones, Rockaway Beach…chewing out a rhythm on my bubble gum, the sun is out and I want some…’



Health Update: New Guidelines on Drinking Alcohol


Below is a summary of the key points from an article in The Guardian this week on the new recommendations on drinking alcohol in England, which are now the strictest guidelines on alcohol consumption in the world.

‘For the first time since 1995, government recommendations on alcohol drinking have been updated.  The new guidelines advise consuming less per session, on fewer days per week, and less overall.  For men, the guidelines now bring the recommended limit per week in line for men and women at 14 units.

Scientific understanding of the effects of alcohol has advanced a great deal in the 20 years since the previous guidelines, the most up-to-date evidence suggesting that they both underestimated the harms and overestimated the benefits of drinking alcohol. In particular, the evidence that alcohol increases the risk of some cancers has grown stronger, while previous suggestions that small amounts of alcohol could be protective for the heart now seem less likely to be the case. The new guidelines point out that there’s no ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption, but that we encounter risks every day, and alcohol is just another of these.

Since 1995, a large amount of evidence has emerged suggesting that alcohol use causes various cancers. As a specific example, the risk of bowel cancer in men who do not drink is around 64 cases per 1000 men. This rate doesn’t increase for men who drink within the new recommended range (up to 14 units per week), but for those who drink more than 35 units a week it increases to around 115 cases per 1000 men. Alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer in women at even lower levels of drinking. The risk in non-drinkers is around 109 cases per 1000 women. Even drinking within the new recommended limit increases the risk slightly (to around 126 women per 1000), but drinking more than 35 units nearly doubles the risk to 206 cases per 1000 women.

Vivian Maier

A figure of 14 units per week was settled upon by the scientists who helped develop these guidelines because this represents just under a 1% lifetime risk of death due to alcohol use (from any cause, not just due to cancer). How does this compare to other risks we expose ourselves to? It’s about equivalent to your lifetime risk of getting bowel cancer if you eat three rashers of bacon every day. It’s much lower than your risk of death if you’re a smoker, which current estimates put at greater than 1 in 2. Conversely, your lifetime risk of being killed in a car accident is 1 in around 230; less than half as likely as your risk of an alcohol related death if you drink within the new guidelines.

Are there any health benefits to drinking alcohol? The new guidelines do not rule out that women over 55 who drink a small amount could see benefits to their health.  This benefit is greatest for very low rates of alcohol consumption (around 1 unit per day, well under the 14 unit-per-week limit), and it certainly doesn’t negate the increased risk for cancers and liver disease that alcohol might cause.

So it seems our bodies would prefer us not to drink alcohol.  Cheers, bodies!

To close, here’s a classic drinking song from John Lee Hooker, One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer…