Pilates is a well-known strength exercise that tones muscles without bulking you up. It’s also a functional exercise, which means it increases your flexibility, improves your mobility, and helps you do daily physical activities with more ease. Overall, it’s a beneficial exercise that makes you fit. But some people don’t just want to be fit; they want to lose weight. And they ask, “Is Pilates good for weight loss?” As with every question worth asking, the answer to this is a bit complicated.
Perspectives on how we lose weight
One of the quickest and most popular ways of shedding those extra pounds is by doing cardio. This means engaging in exercises that get your heart rate up and make you sweat, like running and cycling. Pilates is not cardio. While its intensity can be heightened, it remains a low-impact exercise. Compared to circuit training that burns 756 calories per hour, Pilates burns only about 175–254. Note that you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound. So from this angle, Pilates doesn’t really help you lose weight.
Except it does. A recent study on obese women showed significant decrease in their fat percentage and BMI after practicing eight weeks of Pilates. This study also showed that there was a tendency for an increase in lean body mass, confirming existing literature about how Pilates helps build lean tissues essential to maintain muscle mass that’s crucial for high metabolic rate. Without a strength training exercise, you can lose muscle mass and have slower metabolism, making long-term weight management unsuccessful. From this perspective, Pilates aids in weight loss.
Related article: How Pilates shapes the body
The question shouldn’t be framed in a way that makes it seem like Pilates is the make-or-break determiner for losing weight, because weight loss is influenced by many factors. In a 2015 study on the effects of Pilates on menopausal women’s muscle strength and body composition, no significant changes were observed because diet was not a variable. So if you’re counting on Pilates to slim you down without your needing to change your eating habits, prepare to be disappointed.
Rather than being the sole determiner of weight loss, Pilates works as a catalyst to speed up metabolism, an important component of weight management. But if you’re doing Pilates and only Pilates, you might not see its effects on the weighing scale immediately.
The best approach is to keep doing cardio while adding Pilates to your workout plan. You can start with two sessions per week, then gradually up it to three or four. And because Pilates makes you stronger, more flexible, and more aware of your body, it will help you do other exercises better as well, helping you get the most out of them. In other words, Pilates might just be the missing link that unifies your health routine together.
Experience the many benefits of Pilates firsthand at our C2 Body studios in Boston and Dedham. We offer several Pilates classes daily. Sign up for one today.