Helping students to stretch their skill set and potentially gain flexibility in future career paths, University of Wisconsin is offering a new Pilates class as part of its certificate program within the dance department.

UW now offers students the opportunity to earn a certificate in Pilates instruction through the the School of Education’s dance department. It is one of the first programs of its kind to be offered at a four-year university.

Associate Lecturer in the School of Education Collette Stewart has been teaching at UW for about 10 years and was one of the key creators of the certificate program, which involves 11 classes compromised of a total of 20 credits.

Stewart was teaching dance at UW when the department introduced some Pilates courses. She said the response to the classes was so positive that the department asked her to create a Pilates curriculum that would be comparable to the teaching training program traditionally offered in private settings.

Stewart said the program was passed by a committee toward the end of the summer of 2013. While the program technically started this past semester, it will not be launching effectively until next fall, she said.

“The program is a benefit to dance students. They get Pilates training while they are in school,” Stewart said.

Stewart said this can be important for dance students as professional dancer salaries are not always lucrative. Students of all majors and concentrations have taken and continue to take the Pilates classes, she said.

Emily Kwock, a UW sophomore and marketing major, took Dance 135 last semester and said she enjoyed her experience.

“Being a marketing major, I don’t really have a lot of time for extra exercise. It kept me healthy mentally and physically,” Kwock said.

Kwock said she would recommend the course to other students, regardless of their major. She said she managed to get in a little exercise during her credit hours and learned exercise moves that she can practice during and beyond her time at UW.

Stewart also said the classes almost always reach enrollment capacity.

“We are offering four mat courses next semester and they all filled right away,” Stewart said. “Students are very enthusiastic in general, and they really seem to enjoy their classes.”

Any student who is pursuing a degree related to the physical body — kinesiology, dance or athletic training for instance — could benefit from Pilates training, Stewart said.

The training could be especially useful for those considering attending graduate school and studying physical therapy, Stewart added.

“There is a field of people who are physical therapists and Pilates teachers. They like to incorporate Pilates into therapy. It is really useful in recovery from pain and injury,” Stewart said.

Stewart said she knows firsthand how restorative the exercise can be. She originally started practicing to stay in shape as a dancer, but said she quickly found it to be healing as well and used it to help manage her scoliosis.

The certificate is estimated to take five semesters to complete, which has posed a problem for upperclassmen who are enrolling in the classes and became interested in the certificate, Stewart said, adding that starting the program early is essential.

“The hardest thing is that students have to start [the certificate] freshman or sophomore year. Students need to know about it early enough in their career to declare it,” Stewart said.