Is Pilates Good for Weight Loss?

Elderly women doing exercise

Embarking on a weight loss journey often involves increasing your physical activity. But it can be difficult to know which exercises are best for you and your goals.

One popular option is Pilates, a low-intensity workout that not only tones your body but can also improve your overall quality of life.

In this article, we’ll look at how Pilates can help you achieve your weight loss goals, important things to consider, and tips for incorporating this exercise into your daily routine.

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What is Pilates?

Pilates is a form of low-impact exercise that emphasizes core strength, postural alignment, and muscle balance.

It was originally designed to help rehabilitate injured soldiers in the early 20th century, but has since gained popularity.

Pilates is typically performed on a mat or using specialized equipment — such as a reformer — that provides additional resistance.

The practice also typically includes precise movements and breathing techniques to enhance the exercises.

You’ll typically perform fewer repetitions of a movement but with greater form and control.

How Can Pilates Help You Lose Weight?

Tones the muscles

Pilates is particularly effective at strengthening and toning the muscles, especially within the core. These include your abdominals, lower back, hips, and buttocks.

By focusing on precise movements, Pilates engages smaller muscle groups that are often neglected in other forms of exercise.

This approach can help you develop leaner muscle throughout your body while trimming down fat. Over time, this can help you lose weight and look leaner.

May boost metabolism and increase caloric burn

Regularly practicing Pilates can help increase your lean muscle mass. When you have more muscle, your body needs more energy to function, which indirectly boosts your metabolic rate.

A higher metabolic rate means your body can burn more calories while performing exercises and daily activities.

This metabolic boost also helps you create a calorie deficit — or burning more calories than you consume — which is essential for long-term weight loss.

Other Benefits of Pilates

Pilates isn’t just useful for those looking to lose weight. The practice has a variety of other benefits that can significantly improve your life.

Enhances flexibility

One of the primary benefits of Pilates is its ability to improve your flexibility.

Pilates exercises involve movements that stretch the muscles to elongate them and enhance their range of motion, increasing flexibility around the joints.

The exercises primarily target the joints around the core, hips, shoulders, and back – which are essential for movement.

When these joints are more flexible, your muscles can work more effectively, which decreases your risk of injury and makes it easier to perform daily activities.

Improves posture

Pilates emphasizes proper alignment and balanced muscle development, which can contribute to a better posture.

The exercises require careful attention to the position of your spine, pelvis, and shoulder blades to promote alignment.

This helps to support more efficient movement, allowing you to maximize the benefits of your workout.

Regular pilates practice may also help to correct imbalances in the muscles — especially those that support the spine — which can lead to a noticeable improvement in posture.

Good posture may also make you look slimmer and more toned.

May improve mental health

Engaging in Pilates can have a significant impact on your mental health.

Pilates exercises demand mindfulness and concentration, fostering a state of mental focus that may alleviate stress and anxiety.

It also emphasizes deep, controlled breathing that could improve oxygen flow to the brain. This can enhance your mood and create a sense of calm.

Can help prevent injuries

Pilates can be effective in helping to prevent injuries by focusing on strengthening the core muscles and spine.

The development of the body’s muscles can also help correct any imbalances contributing to injuries — such as misaligned hips or weak joints.

Pilates is also a low-impact exercise, making it a safe workout choice for individuals recovering from injury or those with mobility limitations.

Incorporating Pilates into Your Exercise Routine

Begin with the basics

If you’re new to Pilates, start with basic exercises to familiarize yourself with the principles of the practice — such as proper spine alignment, core engagement, and controlled breathing.

Starting with a foundation course or beginner mat pilates class can help you learn the proper techniques while avoiding the risk of injury.

You’ll also learn how to perform basic exercises that focus on building core strength and coordination, which are essential for more advanced practices.

If you prefer home workouts, there are many YouTube videos and online courses you can use to build your practice, such as:

Schedule regular sessions

Consistency is key when incorporating new exercises into your routine — especially if you’re trying to lose weight, which can take time.

Aim to practice Pilates twice or thrice a week to gain the full benefits of this exercise method. Most Pilates sessions range from 45 minutes to an hour.

Combine Pilates with strength or cardiovascular training

Pilates is a strength-based workout that focuses on toning muscles and improving your posture, but it’s low in cardiovascular intensity.

To create a well-balanced exercise routine aimed at promoting weight loss, combine Pilates with another aerobic exercise, like walking, running, or cycling.

These activities can complement Pilates by further increasing your caloric burn, enhancing muscle tone, and improving heart health.

You can also combine Pilates with strength or resistance training for stronger muscles and a lower body fat percentage.

Use Pilates for active recovery

Pilates can be a great form of active recovery — which involves performing low-intensity exercises after a strenuous workout to help muscles recover.

The gentle and controlled movements of Pilates practice can keep your muscles active without placing strain on them.

This can help to promote faster recovery and help prevent feeling stiff or sore after an intense workout.

You can also practice Pilates on rest days to help maintain mobility and improve flexibility.

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Important Considerations and Limitations of Using Pilates for Weight Loss

Limitations of using Pilates to lose weight

One common misconception associated with Pilates is the so-called "Pilates effect."

This term describes the phenomenon where individuals believe they have lost weight due to practicing Pilates when they have just improved muscle tone and posture.

When this happens, it can create the appearance of a slimmer physique.

This effect can be misleading as it may seem like you’ve shed excess pounds when no actual body weight change has occurred.

While enhanced muscle definition and posture correction can contribute to a healthier and more toned appearance, remember that this doesn’t always correlate with fat loss.

This highlights the importance of following a comprehensive approach to losing weight, which includes changes to your diet and lifestyle habits.

When should you avoid using Pilates for weight loss?

Although Pilates is safe for most people, it may not be suitable for everyone.

For example, if your fitness goal is to lose a significant amount of fat or you require high-intensity cardio activities to support your health, Pilates may not meet your needs on its own.

Individuals with specific injuries and health conditions — such as severe back or neck issues and cardiovascular diseases — should also avoid Pilates to prevent complications.

It’s also not recommended for individuals with a high-risk pregnancy to practice Pilates without first consulting their doctor.

Alternatives to Pilates for weight loss

Those looking for alternatives to Pilates that may help them burn more calories or tone different muscle groups should consider:

  • Vigorous cardiovascular exercises, such as jogging, cycling, or swimming

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

  • Weight training

  • Activities like kickboxing or dance classes

These activities tend to promote more rapid weight loss results, especially when combined with dietary changes.

However, they can put more pressure on your joints and muscles, increasing your risk of injury.

Always be mindful of these risks and ensure you take proper precautions — like warming up and maintaining the correct posture — to avoid any issues.

Where Can You Learn More About Sustainable Ways to Lose Weight?

If you’re looking for more information on Pilates and additional ways to lose weight, LifeMD has got you covered.

With the LifeMD Weight Management Program, you’ll also have access to ongoing support from a team of medical professionals and innovative GLP-1 medications like Ozempic, Wegovy and others, if you qualify. Get started today.

Janice Cahambing, PMHNP

Janice is a board-certified nurse practitioner with over a decade of experience in primary care medicine. She champions a patient-centered approach, fostering collaborative partnerships to proactively manage overall well-being. Committed to personalized and culturally sensitive care, Janice emphasizes preventive medicine and health education, empowering patients to play an active role in their health. Beyond her medical commitment, Janice finds joy in the outdoors, indulging in hiking, biking, and camping. Her personal passion for nature underscores her belief in its positive impact on well-being, reflecting her dedication to a healthy lifestyle.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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