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Is Pilates Good for Weight Loss? Here’s The Scientific Data

January 30, 2022 7 min read

Yes, Pilates is good for weight loss. In fact, one study from 2017 found that 90 minutes of Pilates, three times a week, improved body composition and weight loss in overweight women.

So is Pilates right for you?

Maybe you’ve heard of all the celebrities switching over to Pilates but are still skeptical of the results you’ll receive or how long it will take.

You’re in luck—Pilates is not only an excellent workout to help lose weight but to help keep weight off. We’ll explain.

In general, results from Pilates for weight loss could take anywhere from 2-3 months, depending on the frequency and intensity of your exercises. Of course, other factors, such as diet and any additional cardiovascular exercises, will impact your results.

For example, a person near 150 pounds burns only 175 calories for one 50 minute beginner Pilates workout. Fortunately, you can achieve a high-calorie burn by turning up the intensity of your workouts, such as by using a Pilates reformer machine.

You will most likely see the best results from Pilates in your belly because most Pilates workouts target the core to help build lean muscle. So if you're looking to burn a little residual baby weight or want a set of smooth abs, Pilates is perfect for you!

While we’ll state that Pilates is great for weight loss, the benefits of Pilates for weight loss are not the same as a high-intensity cardiovascular workout. However, we’d argue that Pilates is more effective at keeping weight off and is more sustainable than running 5 miles every day!

So this begs the question, how does Pilates help you lose weight if not through calorie burn and are there more intense Pilates workouts that help burn weight quicker?

4 Major Benefits of Pilates for Weight Loss

1. Reduced Stress and Improved Sleep

Many scientists suspect there to be a connection between cortisol, the stress-forming hormone, and weight gain.

One of the best ways to reduce cortisol is through deep breathing. It’s often the primary reason wellness experts preach the importance of deep breathing to combat anxiety. Many research has found that deep breathing reduces cortisol levels by around 70%.

On the other hand, shallow breathing keeps cortisol levels elevated and may increase cortisol levels. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, then you understand how this process unfolds.

Fortunately, Pilates teaches us how to control our breathing during exercise and take more deep breaths. Overall, deep breathing minimizes cortisol levels, which reduces inflammation, improves sleep, and reduces glucose production that turns foods into fat. Unfortunately, scientists have not established a direct connection to prove that stress contributes or does not contribute to weight gain.

However, while there may only be an indirect connection between stress reduction and weight loss, there is a direct connection between improved sleep and weight loss. One ill effect of cortisol is that it raises your heart rate and skin temperature, making it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep.

One study found that reduced sleep among its participants cut fat loss results by as close as 55%, even when accounting for the same caloric intake. So if you want to lose weight in general, get a good night’s sleep!

One reason that sleep improves weight loss may be that it reduces hunger. The same study also found that sleepier patients had higher ghrelin levels, which is a hormone released by the stomach to trigger our appetites. Patients with better sleep patterns had lower levels of this hormone and ate less.

This makes sense because I don’t think that many of us really wake up starving after a good night’s sleep. On other hand, there have been times when we’ve been craving a midnight snack because we can’t sleep or sleep very little.

With this in mind, we can establish a clear connection between the positive benefits of a cortisol-conscious workout like Pilates or even yoga and the improved weight loss benefits of better sleep and reduced hunger. But, of course, this is not the only connection between Pilates and weight loss as you’ll see.

2. Reduced Inflammation

Stress is the body’s enemy. If you search for any disease or symptom on Web MD, it most likely will come back with cancer or stress.

Fortunately, another positive benefit that Pilates provides is reduced inflammation. By reducing stress and cortisol, we also mitigate inflammation and allow our bodies to recover faster.

Scientists have found that not only does inflammation cause fat, but excess body fat leads to more inflammation. Unfortunately, this proinflammatory state leads to many other diseases, including cancer. So stress causes cancer, just another reason to be stressed.

However, by using Pilates to reduce stress, you can reduce overall body inflammation. Pilates is especially effective when paired with a high-intensity workout, which elevates cortisol and inflammation of the body. As a result, Pilates has a two-fold effect on your weight loss journey:

  • Reducing inflammation which reduces fat
  • Improving muscle recovery which encourages more exercise and faster fat burn

In addition, Pilates confers additional benefits to your muscle tone and posture, which also help improve weight loss goals.

Pilates is an all-in-one cure for stress and inflammation!

3. Improved Posture

So you want to know the secret to weight loss? We covered sleep, but how about posture?

Many of you may be stunned to hear that better posture leads to more efficient caloric burn. That’s because when we practice good posture, our organs are not squished and work more efficiently. As a result, more efficient stomachs and organs lead to more calories burned.

In addition, by improving posture through Pilates, we can also take deeper breaths, which allows us to reduce stress even more.

In total, improving your posture through Pilates reduces stress, helps your body burn fat faster, and even develops muscle more quickly.

So as you’re reading this now, be sure to fix your posture!

4. Lean Muscle

Finally, we’ve discussed how Pilates exercises develop lean muscle efficiently. However, the benefits of building lean muscle through Pilates help in two different ways.

First, lean muscle requires additional energy from the body to develop, which requires your body to burn more calories.

Secondly, Pilates may encourage more people to stick to their daily workout routines by providing visible results in their belly region.

It’s a fact that most people abandon the gym after 90 days and one survey found that 22% of people don’t stick with workouts because they don’t see results right away. I’m sure most of us are guilty of that. It’s probably what led most of us to Pilates in the first place.

While the results of traditional Pilates may take months, supplementing with a HIIT workout or reformer Pilates can speed up results and encourage greater motivation.

Overall, when you feel better physically and mentally, you’re more motivated to stick to the good habits that got you to that state.

It’s why we look forward to Pilates, not like we dread hitting the treadmill.

With these benefits in mind, we thought it would be interesting to see whether or not reformer Pilates offered more drastic weight loss results than traditional mat Pilates.

Is Reformer Pilates Good for Weight Loss? 

Yes, reformer Pilates is good for weight loss and is more effective than traditional mat Pilates. Unlike mat Pilates, Pilates reformers machines include weight resistance to promote muscle growth, which leads to faster lean muscle growth.

Think of mat Pilates as running back and forth and reformer Pilates as pulling a sled behind you. While the metaphor may not be exact, you can see how adding weight to each exercise can speed up lean muscle growth.

Overall, reformer Pilates for weight loss can increase strength and endurance while still providing the same mind and body benefits as mat Pilates, as discussed above.

Of course, many of you still won’t see as high of a calorie burn using reformer Pilates as, say, 30 minutes on the treadmill. Reformer Pilates isn’t literally the same as pulling a sled or doing squats, but it’s similar to many ab workouts you might have done in the past.

Instead, Pilates reformer machines help channel focus using resistance exercises for more incredible mind-body benefits.

In addition, customizing and expanding your workouts using a Pilates reformer machine will keep you motivated to stick with Pilates.

With that said, there are several options available for consumers to find the best Pilates reformer machines for their weight loss journey. While most Pilates exercises may not contribute much to caloric burn, they confer many other mind-body benefits which will help you lose fat more efficiently.

So to recap, the primary benefits of Pilates for weight loss may come through reducing stress and inflammation, improving posture, and delivering visible results.

The Pilates Verdict 

Pilates is effective for weight loss when combined with a proper diet and other exercises. Of course, you can build lean muscle and lose weight slightly more quickly using a Pilates reformer machine.

However, while traditional Pilates may not burn as many calories as cardio or HIIT workouts, Pilates offers additional benefits that will help your weight loss journey.

But this doesn’t mean you need to drop your Pilates class to go back to that stairclimber. What we recommend is using Pilates in conjunction with other workouts, like a reformer Pilates workout, to lose weight more efficiently, if that’s your goal.

Once you lose weight, you could switch strictly back to Pilates to help keep the weight away.

Overall, the benefits of Pilates include reduced stress, reduced inflammation, better posture, and more lean muscle.

By sticking to Pilates, you will enjoy a smoother belly, better mind-body wellness, and receive more motivation to stick to good habits that aid in weight loss.


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