Pilates focuses on strengthening the body and core through stretches and small movements. Any form of physical exercise, combined with other factors such as diet, can help people lose weight.

Pilates is a low impact gym activity. Therefore, many may not consider it the most obvious choice for notable or effective weight loss. However, Pilates can be a powerful weight loss tool for many individuals for a variety of reasons.

This article explains whether Pilates can be good for weight loss. It also details how Pilates changes the body, the research and statistics behind it, and general tips for effective weight loss.

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Unlike many high intensity workouts, Pilates does not burn a significant amount of calories, but studies have found that it can reduce body weight.

A 2021 study found Pilates to effectively reduce body weight and body fat percentage in participants with overweight or obesity. These effects were more pronounced in those with obesity only. Additionally, the study found that the longer a person performed Pilates, the more significant the weight loss.

Furthermore, Pilates is particularly effective for people with overweight or obese because it does not put the same strain on the joints as certain other forms of exercise, such as running or swimming.

In general, weight loss is the result of maintaining a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit means a person is expending more calories than they are consuming. This can be due to many factors, including exercise and diet, metabolism, genetics, and various health conditions.

What is Pilates?

Pilates, originally called “controlology,” originated in the 1930s with Joseph Pilates. It is most commonly practiced as a mat class and is a popular moderate aerobic resistance-based workout.

Similar to yoga, Pilates focuses on:

  • posture
  • balance
  • flexibility
  • mind-over-body control

However, it has more emphasis on movement, core strength, and resistance than is typically seen in the average yoga session — similar to gymnastics and calisthenics.

Pilates focuses on building strength and muscle tissue. This is something referred to as “body recomposition.” Body recomposition helps people build lean muscle mass and raise their basal metabolic rate (BMR), enabling them to burn more calories, including when they are static or resting.

A person’s BMR determines the number of calories they burn while at rest. The more lean muscle tissue a person has, the more calories they require to keep tissue primed and fed. Therefore, the more muscle people have, the more calories their bodies burn while at rest.

Improving body composition through consistent muscle strengthening techniques can help build lean muscle and reduce body fat, also often resulting in weight loss. This is something that Pilates can facilitate through its core movements and philosophy of mindfulness between a person and their body.

An older systematic review of studies on the effects of Pilates on body composition, published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, found that doing 60 minutes of Pilates practice 5 times per week for 4 weeks was best for promoting changes in body composition.

However, devoting any amount of time to improving fitness is invaluable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults perform 150 minutes of moderate to intense activity per week.

Effective weight loss tips include:

  • Eating a nutritious, high protein diet: Eating a diet high in protein will help keep a person more satiated and, therefore, more likely to stay in a calorie deficit. This is because protein reduces the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and increases the hormone that helps a person feel full.
  • Doing aerobic exercise: To prevent spiking the appetite, a person can try aerobic workouts that engage the cardiovascular system, such as uphill walking.
  • Starting resistance training: Opting for resistance training as part of a fitness regimen increases BMR, ensuring that a person burns the optimal amount of calories, even while resting.
  • Trying intermittent fasting: Intermittent fasting, which involves going 16 or more hours at a time without eating, can help people lose fat while maintaining muscle mass. It can also help people monitor or reduce their calorie intake.

Learn more about the benefits of exercise.

There is considerable evidence to suggest that Pilates is an effective workout technique with numerous benefits that can help people lose weight in a healthy way. For people to experience the greatest weight loss benefits of Pilates, it is best to consistently practice it multiple times per week.

However, weight loss requires a calorie deficit. Therefore, to see results, it is important to ensure a healthy and sustained calorie deficit in combination with any workout plan.

Thus, a person may wish to combine Pilates workouts with a nutritious, high protein diet and other forms of exercise.