Blog Fitness Pilates Pilates For Weight Loss: Does It Work? What Experts Say

Pilates For Weight Loss: Does It Work? What Experts Say

Have you ever considered using Pilates for weight loss? A decade ago or so, Pilates was a niche workout that seemed only to be used by dancers and some celebrities. However, this once-niche workout has come mainstream with more and more people taking an interest in it and its potential benefits.

This style of exercise is an intense, muscle-strengthening routine that combines approximately 50 simple, repetitive exercises to help boost your flexibility, mobility, posture, and balance, as well as muscle strength and endurance (4). That said, can it help you lose weight?

Pilates weight loss for beginners is something that many people who are new to working out may look into as an alternative to normal cardio or gym weight lifting. But is Pilates any good for weight loss? Could this be an exercise option for those who wish to try something new? Read on to find out!

Can You Lose Weight By Doing Pilates?

Yes, you can. Whether you are doing Pilates for weight loss at home or in a class at a studio, this style of exercise can help you lose weight. This fact can be seen through several scientific studies:

  1. In a study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that doing this workout  5 days a week for 4 weeks helped girls aged 10 to 12 years lower their BMI percentile. This is evidence that it can help prevent the risk of obesity in children (1).
  2. In 2009, an adult study showed that doing an 8-week traditional mat Pilates program can not only help beginner Pilates practitioners reduce their body fat, but also help them reduce their waist, chest, and arm circumferences. The muscular endurance and flexibility of the study participants also showed significant improvement (2). 
  3. In 2017, another study published in the The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness supported the above statements. In the study, 37 sedentary overweight and obese women aged between 30 and 50 years were randomly divided into two groups. The first was instructed to do Pilates workouts 90 minutes, 3 times a week, for 8 weeks. The second group did not participate in any physical activity program. The aim of the study was to look at how pilates would affect the BMI, body fat mass, lean body mass, waist, abdomen and hip circumference of the women. After the 8-week study period, researchers found that this workout was effective in decreasing abdomen and hip circumference, toning the waist, lowering BMI, and reducing the weight and body fat mass of the women (6).
  4. In a more recent study published in Frontiers in Physiology, researchers saw that this workout can effectively reduce body weight and body fat percentage in both overweight and obese participants – albeit with more pronounced results in the latter group. The researchers also found that the longer the participants did these exercises, the more significant their weight loss results became (5).
See also
Is Pilates Strength Training? Here's How it Compares to Traditional Weightlifting

pilates for weight loss  

From the above studies, we can conclude that weight loss is certainly possible through the use of Pilates. This type of workout may not be as aggressive as traditional cardio and weight lifting or more modern variations like HIIT or Tabata, but it will give you similar desired results.

Aside from weight loss, Pilates has other health benefits including (4)

  • Improving core strength
  • Improving posture
  • Managing low back pain and rehabilitating other kinds of injury that require physical therapy
  • Improving balance which is not only great for day to day life, but is especially important for older adults who are more prone to falls
  • May help strengthen the pelvic floor
  • Improved flexibility
  • Better leaping ability

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Is 20 Minutes of Pilates A Day Enough To Lose Weight?

Yes, 20 minutes of full-body Pilates for weight loss can help you start off your weight loss journey. The CDC recommends that adults need 150 minutes of physical activity each week for weight loss as well as weight management and better overall health (3). This is often translated to just 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.

To some, 30 minutes may seem like very little, but to others, it may seem like a lot. This could be due to time constraints, fitness level, health and joint issues, and much more. If you fall into any of these categories, then 20 minutes of Pilates could be the thing you need.

See also
Wall Pilates For Beginners: Your Guide To Get Started

Remember that, at the end of the day, the goal is to move your body in some way. It could be for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour, or as much as an hour and a half. Moving your body in some simple way every day is better than doing nothing and living a sedentary lifestyle.

With this in mind, just 20 minutes a day of Pilates is definitely enough to help you start losing weight and improving your health. From here you can aim to increase the time spent exercising – remember, the average Pilates class is usually 45 minutes to an hour. 

This longer session allows you to do more movements in a slower, controlled manner which can go a long way not only in helping you lose weight but also in improving your flexibility and increasing muscle strength and endurance

What Type of Pilates Is Best For Weight Loss?

All types of Pilates can lead to weight loss. You only need to choose the variation that works best for you. The main types of this workout include:

  1. Reformer Pilates – This is perhaps the most known kind of Pilates. The reformer table – which is where this variation gets its name – is synonymous with pilates everywhere. 

When working out on the reformer table, you lie or balance on the table and use its attached springs, a sliding carriage, ropes and pulleys to add more resistance to your workout.

  1. Mat Pilates – As the name suggests, this variation is done on a yoga or gym mat and does not include an apparatus like the reformer or any other fancy equipment. 

This variation is popular with many people as it can easily be done at home without the added expense of machinery or studio fees – just your body weight and a mat.

  1. Classical Pilates – this variation often looks like a combination of mat and reformer pilates as it includes both apparatus and mat work. However, unlike the mat and reformer variation, classical Pilates is more traditional. 

The movements and classes adhere to the teachings that were used by Joseph Pilates’, the inventor of this workout style.

  1. Clinical Pilates – Unlike the above three, this variation is not used for weight loss and will very likely not be taught at your local studio nor will you find it online. Clinical Pilates is used for the treatment or rehabilitation of injuries and certain health conditions and is taught by trained and certified physiotherapists.
  2. Contemporary Pilates – This variation combines age-old practices of traditional Pilates with new information acquired from contemporary research. Those who teach contemporary pilates claim to incorporate knowledge from things like physiotherapy, biomechanics, and modern knowledge of the human body into their classes. This variation has no set of rules and things taught vary from studio to studio and teacher to teacher depending on their beliefs.
See also
Chair Pilates For Seniors With Chronic Pain: Gentle Exercises To Reduce Discomfort

Aside from clinical Pilates, which is obviously meant for injury rehabilitation and physiotherapy, all other kinds of this exercise can help with weight loss.

Read more: Wall Pilates for Butt: A Quick Guide for Beginners

Wall Pilates For Weight Loss: Is It Any Good?

While not an official variation like those listed above, wall pilates is a type of pilates that can be easily done at home, not only for weight loss but also for increased muscle strength and endurance, better core strength, and improved flexibility.

This variation is a combination of traditional classic pilates as well as mat pilates. Since this variation is done at home, you replace the reformer with any of the four walls in your house.

But, is it effective? 

Yes, it is. This might be an alternative version of traditional and mat pilates but wall pilates uses the same principles. This means that not only will wall pilates work for weight loss, but it will also help improve your core and overall muscle strength as well as flexibility and posture. If you work from home, a 20 minute wall pilates routine could be your best bet for the best pilates for weight loss.

Are Pilates Rings Effective?

A Pilates ring is a circular, flexible, and lightweight ring that you can use in your normal Pilates routine either at home or at the studio. The rings can be used to exercise multiple body parts including the arms, ankles, torso, thighs, calves, and even your palms.

As a beginner, the rings can be useful as not only do they add more resistance to the workout which means the muscles work more, but they also assist in improving balance. Pilates as an exercise style is very core-heavy. The core is responsible for keeping us stable and balanced.

See also
The Pros And Cons Of Pilates Vs. Weight Training

At the beginning of your journey, your core is likely not as strong or as stable, and thus, you may find yourself losing balance while trying to do some moves/poses. The main pilates ring benefits of weight loss is that it can keep you stable, allowing you to carry out the exercises more smoothly and increase your calorie burn due to the added resistance in some exercises.

pilates for weight loss  

If you choose to get such a ring, you can use the pilates ring in weight loss and muscle strengthening exercises such as

The Supine Twist

  • Start by lying on your back on the mat.
  • Place the ring between the ankles and lift your legs with knees bent at 90 degrees. Keep the toes pointed.
  • Your arms should rest on the mat straight out from shoulders.
  • Maintaining this shape, slowly lower the legs a few inches to the right. Hold for a few seconds then return to center.
  • Hold and then lower legs a few inches to the left. Return to center.
  • Continue alternating these twists for 6 to 8 reps.

Side Kneeling Oblique

  • Kneel on a mat with your knees hips-width apart and ring upright on your right side. Place your right palm on top of the ring.
  • Reach the left arm up and side bend toward the ring without shifting your weight. Make sure to press down on the ring with your right hand for balance
  • Return to center. This counts as one rep.
  • Complete 8 reps on one side then switch sides and repeat.

Side Heel Press

  • Stand with your legs wider than hip-width apart. Rotate your legs outward that way your toes are pointed out.
  • Lift both arms up to hold the ring above your head
  • Lunge to the right side, bending the right knee and at the hip.
  • Hold this lunge position and slowly lift the heel of the right leg. Hold, then return the right heel to the floor.
  • Straighten the right leg and shift the weight back to the start position. That’s one rep.
  • Repeat alternating sides for 4 to 6 reps.
See also
Pilates Chair Exercise: Benefits & Simple Moves To Try Today

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Will Pilates Help Me Lose Belly Fat?

Yes, it will. As evidenced in the studies above, doing Pilates over several weeks can help you lose body fat and even reduce waist circumference.

Does Pilates Tone Belly Fat?

No. Pilates does not tone belly fat, it tones and strengthens the core/belly muscles that lie under the belly fat. Pilates – as well as a healthy calorie deficit diet – will also help you burn calories, which leads to a thinner waistline. 

Over time, the loss of the belly fat will help make the underlying toned muscles more visible giving you a flatter, sexier midsection.

Pilates vs Weight Lifting: Which Is Better?

This largely depends on your goal. If you want better flexibility and mobility, improved functional fitness, as well as a more stable and stronger core, then Pilates is a great choice.

However, if your goal is bigger and stronger muscles, then weight lifting will work better than Pilates. If your goal is simply weight loss, then we suggest a combination of both – plus some cardio on the side.

While each kind of workout has its benefits, each fails in some areas. For example: 

  1. Weight lifting helps burn calories over longer periods of time and builds bigger and stronger muscles, but it’s not the best for cardiovascular health or flexibility.
  2. Cardio is fantastic for immediate fast calorie burning and improved cardiovascular health, but it will not give you the same muscle strength, definition, and hypertrophy that weight lifting will.
  3. Pilates is great for core strength and flexibility, but may not work as well in improving cardiovascular strength or increasing muscle mass.

Read more: Pilates Full Body Workout for Beginners (No Equipment Needed)

pilates for weight loss  

FAQs

  • How Much Pilates Should I Do A Day To Lose Weight?

Normal Pilates classes take 45 to 60 minutes. However, if you do not have an hour to spare, just 20 minutes of Pilates a day is better than nothing and can help towards your weight loss goals.

  • Will 20 Minutes Of Pilates A Day Do Anything?

Yes, it will. As stated above, Pilates is not only good for weight loss. It can also help with the management and prevention of chronic back pain, can improve balance, posture, and stability, and can strengthen both your core and pelvic floor.

  • How Many Calories Does A 20 Minute Pilates Class Burn?

Due to factors like current weight and muscle mass of an individual as well as gender, age, exercise intensity, genetics, height, and even how much sleep one gets, it is hard to give a ‘one size fits all’ number of calories that one can burn during a 20 minute Pilates class.

  • Is 20 Minutes Of Pilates Effective?

Yes, 20 minutes of Pilates a day is an effective start for weight loss and other health benefits especially for beginners. Focusing on working up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.

The Bottom Line

Pilates for weight loss is an effective low impact way for people new to exercise to workout in order to shed excess weight. This way of working out is also good for people who may not be able to afford going to a gym and those who have issues that could prevent them from doing high impact workouts.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES

  1. Effect of 4 weeks of Pilates on the body composition of young girls (2006, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. Eight-week traditional mat Pilates training-program effects on adult fitness characteristics (2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. How much physical activity do adults need? (2022, cdc.gov)
  4. Pilates: how does it work and who needs it? (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Pilates for Overweight or Obesity: A Meta-Analysis (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. The effect of Pilates exercise on body composition in sedentary overweight and obese women (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)