Spanish Flu Pandemic 100 Years Ago

The Spanish Flu

About 100 years ago an influenza pandemic hit the world. It was known as the Spanish Flu Pandemic. The virus H1N1 spread and infected 500 million people around the world between January 1918 and December 1920. At the time, this was a third of the world´s population. Out of these 500 million people, it is estimated that 50 million died. This is more than the amount of people who died because of the war.

Joseph Pilates and his role during the Spanish Flu Pandemic

During the First World War, Joseph Pilates was interned in a prisoners camp  on the British Isle of Man between September 1915 and March 1919. He was in Knocklaoe camp which was the main camp. There was other smaller ones as well, one of which was called Peel. Inmates were sometimes moved from one camp to the other, and it is likely that at some point he was in Peel.

This photo was taken by my friend Lorraine Corscadden and it shows the camp at Peel

Joseph Pilates worked in the camp hospital with doctors and received wounded soldiers, who were many times missing limbs. He was a creative genius, and during this time he began using springs from the hospital beds to create what would eventually be known as the Cadillac. The Cadillac is a piece of Pilates equipment, which is made up of a table or bed, with four posts to which springs of various strengths and sizes are attached so that the clients (or at that time patients) can strengthen their bodies regardless of any physical limitations.

He also led daily mat classes during this time. Always the same exercises, in the same order, following his rigorous methodology which works the whole body. Most of the inmates would join in these daily classes.

These were tough times, but Lolita San Miguel, my teacher and Pilates Elder, told us that keeping this daily routine helped the inmates in two specific ways: to stay physically and also mentally healthy. The exercises brought them in tune with their bodies and uplifted their spirits.

Joseph later wrote that during the Spanish Flu Pandemic none of his inmates died, even though the war camps were some of the hardest hit places due to the close proximity they all lived in. Daily exercise helped their inmune systems and helped them to resist the virus.

This photo was taken by my friend Lorraine Corscadden and it shows the visitor center at Knockaloe camp today.


The similarities between those times and today are obvious. Thinking about all of this I must highlight the importance of keeping a routine and being able to practice the Pilates method.

Every day for the past 2 weeks, I have met online with people who thanks to today’s technology are able to continue with their routines. I’m thankful to be able to share this method with you, just like Joe did 100 years ago.

There is also a small ray of hope in the darkness. Times of crisis give way to discoveries, initiatives and new ideas. We must not be afraid, but stay calm and do the best we can with what we have. We should help each other and always strive for health and wellness in all areas possible.

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