Will Pilates Help Me Lose Weight?

Weight Loss, Metabolism and The Pilates Effect

Lose Weight With Pilates
Weight Loss With Pilates. Getty

Question: Will Pilates Help Me Lose Weight? I am interested in weight loss and want to know if Pilates will get me to that goal. Is Pilates enough? What else should I do?

Everyone knows the magic combination of diet and exercise can help you shed pounds more quickly than either one alone. What you might not know is that bodyweight and resistance training exercise like Pilates can be just as effective as a cardio workout when it comes to weight loss.

Read on to discover the simple reasons that Pilates is an effective tool if you are trying to reduce that number on the scale.

CALORIE BURN

The first reason is simple math. If you are a largely sedentary person or even a very busy person but not particularly active, a Pilates workout will increase your total caloric expenditure from whatever your baseline is, to a few hundred calories above that. So if you typically burn 1200 calories in a normal day and you add a 300 calorie workout to your routine, you will be burning a total of 1500 calories or 25% more than you were before you added the workout. This applies for all exercise that you add on to your existing regimen, not just Pilates. However it is important to understand that an uptick in your activity is an uptick in your calorie burn which leads directly to weight loss.

METABOLIC RATE

The second way in which Pilates assists in weight loss is by impacting your overall body composition.

Many people who seek to lose weight aren’t necessarily looking to be smaller. It’s a redistribution that many of us are looking for.

If you were the same exact weight but sculpted and toned would you want to weigh less? Likely not. When we look in the mirror what we largely want to see is taut toned muscles and a minimum of excess flesh.

  In other words, more lean muscle mass and less fat.  In order to change your muscle to fat ratio, you must perform resistance training.

You can choose from bodyweight training or actual weight training to accomplish this. Pilates, as it turns out, makes use of both. Proper Pilates workouts require you to master a series of bodyweight exercises known as the Pilates mat as well as endless routines on several distinctive Pilates resistance devices. Note that Pilates employs large heavy springs as opposed to weights so you will be using many different levels of resistance custom tailored to your strength and capacity. Changing your body composition by adding muscle and reducing fat will impact your basal metabolic rate in a positive way. The more muscle you add, the more calories you will burn at rest. Yes, you heard that correctly. You will burn more calories at rest simply by virtue of having added lean muscle to your body. Pilates offers two distinct types of resistance training to help you accomplish this.

THE PILATES EFFECT

If these separate physiological reasons aren’t enough to sell you on Pilates for weight loss, there’s one final reason that should cinch the deal.

It’s the secret sauce of Pilates practitioners everywhere and I call it the “Pilates effect”. Step into a Pilates workout and you’ll be forced to lift your abdominals in and up, retract your shoulders and lengthen you neck. By the end of a Pilates class, your spine will elongate, your waist will narrow and your chest will lift up proudly. Your posture undergoes a complete overhaul leaving you looking and feeling longer and taller than you did just one hour earlier. All of this without ever addressing your diet makes Pilates the fastest weight loss method on the planet. While you're taking care of your nutrition you can already look better with regular Pilates workouts. Finally, Pilates makes you feel better.  You'll boost your self-esteem which is positively associated with weight loss. 

GET STARTED AT HOME

Some of my most recommended at home Pilates exercises for those who want to lose weight include moves you might recognize from traditional fitness. Pilates has strong roots in gymnastics and calisthenics so don’t be surprised if you recognize the choreography. Try a few if you are just beginning Pilates or looking to supplement your cardio workouts with some resistance training to boost your weight loss results.

Lunge Warm Up

Grab some weights between 2-3 lbs and stand tall. Make a "Y" shape with your feet standing with one heel into the other arch. Lunge out onto a bent leg raising the arms briskly overhead. The back leg stays straight. Drag the front leg back to its starting position as you lower the arms. Repeat 8 – 10 times and change sides.

Muscles targeted: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Deltoids

Pilates Push Ups

Stand tall and reach overhead before rounding over and walking your hands out to a push up or plank position. Perform 3 – 5 Push Ups then walk your hands back into your feet and roll up to standing. Repeat 3 – 4 sets.

Muscles targeted: Back, Core, Shoulders

Standing Footwork

Stand with your feet a bit narrower than your hips in parallel and arms crossed genie-style. Squat half way down bending the hips and knees but keeping the spine upright. Hold at the lowest point for 3 counts. Then stand back up. Repeat 8  - 12 times for 1 set. Perform 2 sets total.

Muscles targeted: Gluteals, Hamstrings

Leg Pull Up

The muscles on the backside of the body are large and dense. Increasing their strength and volume will impact your metabolism.  Sit tall with your legs together in front of you and your hands behind your hips. The fingers face forward. Press the hips up in the air making a straight line with your body. Hold for 5 breaths. Lower and repeat 5 – 8 times. As you progress you can add a kicking motion, raising one leg at a time.

Muscles targeted: Gluteals, Hamstrings, Triceps, Latissimus Dorsi

If you’re ready for next level Pilates where you tackle the springs and the signature apparatuses that Pilates is known for, get to a Pilates studio and sign up for a one on one lesson where you can experience all the different types of springs that are available. If you’re trying to lose significant weight you’ll want to do Pilates 2-3 times a week and work with the spring driven equipment regularly. 

*Edited by Alycea Ungaro, P.T., M.S., Verywell.com Pilates Expert

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