Can Pilates Help With Weight Loss?

By: Adrian Cruce

Pilates is very popular these days. The low-impact exercises you do while doing Pilates classes are effective for building up lean muscles, toning muscles, and improving posture. On top of that, Pilates helps you maintain a healthy weight and can be beneficial for your overall health. But can Pilates help with weight loss? We’ll be answering your question in this article. Plus, we will give you some tips to maximize your Pilates results and we will compare Pilates to yoga to get a better picture.

Keep reading if you want to learn if and how Pilates can help you during your weight loss journey.  

Is Pilates A Good Exercise For Weight Loss?

This is such a tricky question because there is no yes or no answer. It depends on your goals. If you want to exercise to lose weight, there are many effective exercises you can try. Usually, cardio exercises, such as cycling, Zumba, aerobics or basic cardio training like running or swimming are more effective than low-impact exercises. However, if you don’t like these types of exercises, you won’t stick to them. But if you love Pilates, you’ll be more likely to do it on a regular basis. So it’s true that cardio burns more calories but if you hate it, it won’t work for you.

On top of that, if your goal is to lose weight, you’re probably thinking of changing your diet too. If you combine Pilates with a balanced and nutritious diet and other types of exercises here and there, you will achieve your weight loss goals. Plus, you will improve your health, which is more important than losing weight fast.

Another thing that Pilates does that cardio doesn’t is toning your muscles. Sure, there are cardio exercises that can help with that but with Pilates, you get faster results. If all you do is running, you’ll have a hard time toning all the muscles in your body. With Pilates, you will be able to achieve this. If your goal is to become fitter, not just lose weight, Pilates is definitely a great option. And you can combine it with walking or cycling to burn calories faster.

Research shows that doing Pilates for eight weeks can:

  • lower BMI;
  • tone the waist;
  • decrease hip and abdomen circumference;
  • help you lose more weight.

In this particular study, the results from people who did Pilates for two months (without altering their diets) were compared to a group of people who did no exercise at all. So Pilates is definitely better than nothing when it comes to weight loss. However, the most important thing confirmed by this study is that Pilates significantly increased the lower limb, upper body, and core strength in people who did Pilates. All these without following a healthy diet.

How Many Calories You Can Burn Doing Pilates?

This is another tricky question because the amount of calories you burn during Pilates depends on your current weight, lifestyle, and the difficulty level of the Pilates exercises you do. If prior to doing Pilates you had a sedentary life and you did little to no exercise, you will burn more calories than someone with an active life.

And, as previously mentioned, the difficulty level can make a huge difference. For example, for someone who is 150 pounds a beginner class can burn around 175 calories, while an advanced class can burn 250 or even more calories.

Calories & Weight Loss

To better understand the effect of Pilates, let’s analyze the importance of calorie burning for weight loss. Let’s just say you want to lose one pound. To make it happen, you have to burn approximately 3500 calories. Considering this, you might think Pilates is not effective, especially if you compare it with an hour of aerobic where you can burn up to 500 calories. However, you have to think about why you want to lose weight. Because weight loss shouldn’t be the main goal. Getting healthy, becoming fitter, and improving body strength should be your goals. If you take all these things into consideration then Pilates is actually a great choice.

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To maximize the benefits of Pilates, make sure you also…

  • alternate Pilates workouts with cardio exercises like running and cycling or even walking;
  • eat healthy and nutritious foods, such as whole grains, vegetable, fruits, and lean protein;
  • give up sugary snacks and replace them with healthy ones;
  • give up sugary drinks and drink more water.

Reducing your portions and eating fewer calories also helps but be sure you see a doctor before making major modifications to your diet. And never eat less than 1200 calories!

How Often Should You Practice Pilates?

To experience all the benefits, you have to practice Pilates two or three times per week, especially if you are a beginner and you need time to recover between classes. During your off days, you can do cardio exercises or at least try to stay active by walking to work instead of driving. Or cycling to work. Maybe go dancing. Or do weight exercises if you absolutely hate cardio. Anything that keeps you moving is amazing.

If you have some experience with Pilates, you can try advanced classes or combination classes, such as Yogilates (a mix of yoga and Pilates) or Piloxing (a mix of boxing and Pilates). For best results, go to these classes at least two times per week. These are highly effective and can help you lose weight faster but they are also more difficult. So stick to the basics if you’re a beginner.

What Are The Benefits Of Doing Pilates?

We already mentioned some of the benefits of Pilates but we have to talk about the so-called “Pilates effect”. It is well-known that Pilates improves posture, tones muscles, and strengthens your core. By doing all these things, your overall appearance changes. Even if you don’t lose weight, you will look fit because you toned up your muscles or built muscle mass. Muscles take less space than fat so even though you may not notice changes on your scale, you will notice them in your look.

Pilates vs. Yoga: The Differences and What’s Right for You

Pilates and yoga are somewhat similar. They are both low-impact exercises and they focus on bodyweight resistance. Both yoga and Pilates offer vast benefits and are known to improve overall health and lead to a better quality of life. Proper form is crucial with any type of exercise but with yoga and Pilates proper form is everything. There are modifications you can do if you cannot achieve proper form with certain exercises. That’s why it’s important to attend a class instead of doing Pilates or yoga at home, especially if you are a beginner and you never tried them before.


Developed by Joseph Pilates at the end of WWI, Pilates was initially used as rehabilitation for soldiers who were wounded during the war. During the following years, Joseph Pilates refined his approach and turned into exercises that were similar to the ones we do today in Pilates classes.

Pilates includes small movements that engage the core and stabilizing muscles of the back. The whole point is to have your own body providing resistance. Controlled breathing is also very important in Pilates. Pilates exercises can be done on a mat or with specialized equipment.

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Pilates can:

  • increase muscle strength;
  • increase endurance;
  • develop flexibility;
  • improve posture;
  • increase balance;
  • reduce joint pain.


Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years but it only recently became mainstream in the western world. It is important to note that yoga doesn’t mean just physical exercises; it is centered on 5 principles:

  • proper relaxation;
  • physical exercises;
  • breathing exercises;
  • balanced diet;
  • meditation.

That’s not to say that you cannot practice yoga without meditation or other principles involved but those are very important. Deep breathing is a key feature in yoga practice and so is meditation or mindfulness. These can actually help you to progress faster in yoga and can help you hold various poses easily. Yoga is definitely more than physical exercise; it is a mind-body fitness practice that brings awareness to your body movements, breathing, and energy. That’s why yoga is recommended to people who struggle with mental health issues, not only to those who want to lose weight. In fact, yoga can offer relief for:

  • anxiety;
  • depression;
  • respiratory conditions;
  • chronic pain;
  • MS, arthritis, and other bone diseases;
  • high blood pressure.

What interests us today is if yoga is effective for weight loss. And the answer is yes. Yoga can help with weight loss the same way Pilates does. For instance, during a yoga session, you can burn between 180 and 460 calories. But just like with Pilates, the benefits make yoga worth the effort.

Yoga vs. Pilates: Which One Is Better?

It’s safe to say that both Pilates and yoga are great workouts. However, many forms of yoga, including beginner forms, require substantial mobility of joints and flexibility. Particularly spine, wrist, and hip flexibility so that’s why many people avoid yoga. Sure, poses can be modified but even then they can be difficult for people with severe limitations. If you want to try yoga, there are many types you can choose from including chair yoga, acro yoga, and restorative yoga. As always, finding what’s best for you is key.

Pilates, on the other hand, is great for everybody and that includes adults who recover from injury because the moves are subtle and they require less flexibility than yoga. There are also many types of Pilates so you just have to find the one that fulfills your needs.

Both exercises are great for improving your health and increase your strength. Certainly, they are also great additions to your weekly exercise routine if you want to lose weight. If you do yoga or Pilates, you can expect to:

  • build lean muscles;
  • increase your flexibility (more so with yoga than Pilates);
  • build core strength;
  • increase balance;
  • improve posture.

At the end of the day, the choice between yoga and Pilates it’s entirely up to you. You should decide which type of workout can benefit you more. If you’re still confused, talk to your doctor and attend a few yoga and Pilates classes to see which one seems like a better fit for you.


Pilates is an effective workout that is beneficial for toning your core and your muscles. It is also great for improving posture. Most importantly, it can also help you lose weight and improve your overall health. The great news is that everybody can do Pilates, therefore, it is actually recommended to those who are recovering from an injury because it can strengthen the affected area. Furthermore, Pilates can improve posture and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. For best weight loss results, it is best to combine Pilates with a healthy diet and alternate Pilates workouts with cardio workouts.