Pilates FAQs – Everything you ever wanted to ask

Pilates is not a new form of exercise, but it has increased in popularity over the last decade or so. Pilates studios are more common than ever, gyms are hosting Pilates classes, and many people practice it right in their own homes. If you are new to Pilates and interested in trying it, you probably have a lot of questions. It’s best to be informed and to talk to your doctor before starting any new kind of exercise routine.

For more answers to frequently asked questions, see also:

How Many Calories Does Pilates Burn?

Pilates is mostly a slow-moving strength workout. It does not elevate your heart rate as high as cardio workouts, like spinning, which means it will not burn as many calories. The actual number of calories you burn during a Pilates workout depends on several factors:

  • Your weight
  • The intensity of the workout
  • The duration of the workout

A study of women weighing an average of 138.5 pounds looked at the health benefits of Pilates, including calorie burn. The average calorie burn for a 50-minute beginner session was 175. Women in an advanced class burned an average of 254 calories in 50 minutes. Pilates can help you build more muscle mass, which burns more calories overall than fat tissue.

Is Pilates a Good Workout?

Pilates is a great workout for many people who include it as part of a regular and varied exercise routine. It is largely a strength training routine that uses body weight and resistance springs to load the muscles. The core is the main focus, but a complete Pilates workout can strengthen the entire body without adding a lot of bulk.

Other benefits of regular Pilates practice include improved flexibility, joint mobility, posture and balance. As part of a varied routine that includes cardio workouts, Pilates can help you lose or maintain weight. It is an adaptable workout that most people can try, even with certain physical limitations. Pilates may also be useful in managing back pain.

Is Pilates Hard?

One of the great things about Pilates is that it can be adapted for all levels, from beginner to expert. For beginners, Pilates can be a little difficult, especially when learning how to use equipment like the reformer. A good instructor is essential in helping newcomers learn good form and how to use equipment.

In terms of intensity, Pilates is not as hard as some workouts. You can make it more challenging on a reformer by increasing the resistance in the springs. You can also try more advanced moves that target more muscles to increase the difficulty level.

Do Men Do Pilates?

Pilates has long appealed to women because it builds long, lean muscles. It helps strengthen the body without adding the bulky muscle mass that you get with other types of strength training including weightlifting and powerlifting.

Classes may have more women than men, but men do practice Pilates, and instructors encourage more men to try it. It’s a great workout for adding stretching and improving flexibility; it hits smaller muscles often neglected in traditional weightlifting; and Pilates is an excellent core-strengthening workout that both men and women need.  

How Many Times Per Week Should I Do Pilates?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that American adults do some type of strength training at least two times per week. Pilates counts as strength training. The guidelines also include 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.

These additional recommendations mean that Pilates should not be the only workout you do. Combine Pilates or other strength training with a few days of aerobic workouts like running, cycling, or swimming.

Another reason to avoid doing Pilates more than three times per week is that the muscles you work need time to recover between sessions. Take a day off between Pilates sessions to let the muscles rebuild into stronger tissue.

How Many Pilates Classes Before I See Results?

The results you get, and how soon you see them, depend on the frequency and intensity of classes. In general, expect to see results in how you feel and look within 10 to 30 sessions. According to founder Joseph Pilates, “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a whole new body.”

How Will Pilates Change My Body?

People who practice Pilates regularly report several important changes in both their bodies and their minds:

  • Greater strength throughout the body
  • Longer, leaner muscles
  • Greater muscle tone and less body fat
  • A stronger core
  • Better balance and posture
  • Greater flexibility and joint mobility
  • A greater connection between the mind and muscle movement
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Greater energy

Whether or not you lose weight while doing Pilates depends on other factors. You may be able to lose body fat and weight if you practice Pilates regularly while also doing regular cardio workouts and eating a healthy, balanced diet. Studies have shown that Pilates is particularly useful in changing body composition in women who are overweight or obese.

Is Pilates Good for Anxiety?

Any form of regular exercise is good for reducing anxiety. Exercise increases relaxation, reduces stress, and helps manage anxiety and depression. It lifts mood and is good for mental health overall.

Pilates is particularly good for anxiety for several reasons. A study of Pilates practice that measured outcomes, including anxiety, found that the regular exercise practice had many health benefits that resulted in reduced anxiety:

  • Improvements in energy
  • Better sleep
  • A focus on breathing exercises
  • Increased attention and distraction from worries
  • Improved blood flow to the brain
  • Relaxed muscles
  • Reduced negative thinking

Is Pilates New Age?

Pilates is not an inherently new age or spiritual practice. The founder of the method developed it more than 100 years ago, primarily as a physical practice. He did include a mind–body connect, which some people interpret in a spiritual way. Pilates called it Contrology, the focus on connecting the mind to the body to control muscle movements.

Pilates does not have to be spiritual, but many practitioners, instructors and studios offer a spiritual component or focus. If you have no interest in the spiritual side of the mind–body connection, you can also find plenty of studios that only emphasize the physical practice of Pilates.

Why is Pilates Called Pilates?

Pilates is named for its founder, Joseph Pilates. He grew up in Germany and used physical fitness to overcome childhood ailments. This inspired his later work with fellow prisoners of war in World War I. He used that opportunity to begin to develop a philosophy and practice of exercise we now know as Pilates.

After the war, Pilates and his wife came to New York City and opened a studio. Dancers became primary clients because they benefited from the focus on strength training, core building, balance, and posture. Pilates had many students who went on to become instructors and passed on his method to modern practitioners.

Will Pilates Flatten My Stomach?

One of the main benefits and outcomes of Pilates practice is the strengthening of the core muscles. This includes the abdominals, back, hips, and glutes. Strengthening the core improves balance and posture, improves performance in other types of activities, reduces injuries and forms a foundation for better movement and overall strength.

Pilates can certainly help you achieve a flatter stomach, but there are other contributing factors. Aerobic workouts help you burn fat, which uncovers stronger abdominal muscles. Diet is also essential. If you work out regularly but consume a lot of calories or eat unhealthy foods, you will not get a flat stomach.

Will Pilates Get Rid of Cellulite?

Pilates can be part of a multi-factor routine that helps reduce the appearance of cellulite. But Pilates alone cannot eliminate cellulite. Exactly why some people develop cellulite is not understood, but it is caused by fat underneath the skin, caught between fibrous tissue that gives the skin a lumpy appearance.

Reducing fat and building muscle can help reduce but not get rid of cellulite completely. In this sense, Pilates will help. A dermatologist can recommend products and procedures that reduce cellulite. Exercise by itself is not enough to get rid of it.

Will Pilates Get You in Shape?

Yes, if practiced regularly, Pilates will get you in better shape. Pilates is mostly a strength training workout. Expect regular Pilates sessions to build muscle, improve your core and overall strength, improve flexibility and give you better posture and balance.

Pilates can also improve your aerobic fitness to some extent. A typical Pilates session does not provide a good aerobic workout, although it will raise your heart rate a little. Some Pilates classes include a cardio session so that you get a more balanced workout and get in better shape.

Is Pilates a Form of Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is simply any exercises that use your own body weight to build strength. The purpose is to improve muscle strength, agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, aerobic conditioning, functional movements and athletic performance. Some classic calisthenic exercises are push-ups, pull-ups, squats and crunches.

There is a lot of overlap between calisthenics and Pilates. Pilates also focuses on strength training and uses body weight. A major difference between the two is that Pilates puts so much emphasis on core strength, while calisthenics exercises cover all muscle groups.

Is Pilates a Form of Resistance Training?

Yes, Pilates is a form of resistance training. Resistance training is any kind of workout that builds muscle strength by stressing the muscle tissue. The muscles work against a resistance. This breaks down the tissue so it can build up stronger again.

Resistance training includes weightlifting, weight machines, calisthenics, resistance ban exercises and bodyweight exercises. Pilates uses body weight and resistance bands and springs to provide the resistance and stress for muscle tissue. Without equipment, you only use your body weight for resistance. With a reformer, you can tighten the springs to increase resistance.

Is Pilates a Good Exercise for Osteoporosis?

Pilates is a good workout for most people because it can be adapted to needs and limitations. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes loss of bone density. This results in weak bones that can break easily.

Weight-bearing exercises help strengthen bones and reduce the mineral loss that occurs in osteoporosis. People with osteoporosis must be very careful with exercise to avoid broken bones. If you have osteoporosis, talk to your doctor before trying any kind of workout. Work with a Pilates instructor with experience and special training in modifying exercises for osteoporosis.

Is Pilates a Good Low-Impact Exercise?

Pilates is a low-impact workout, which means it does not put a lot of pressure on joints. For this reason, it is a good workout for anyone with joint issues. It also improves mobility and flexibility in the joints and can prevent related injuries and pain.

You can even add a cardio element to Pilates workouts while keeping it low impact. An attachment for reformer machines, known as a rebounder, acts like a vertical trampoline. You can push against it to get your heart rate up, while still avoiding high-impact moves.

Is Pilates a Good Recovery Workout?

Pilates is a good choice for recovery from difficult workouts, athletic activities, and injury or illness. Work only with a trained Pilates instructor if your goal is recovery. They understand how to help clients with specific needs such as improving strength and mobility after surgery.

If you are an athlete or engage in challenging workouts, a Pilates session can be a good way to recover. It stretches the muscles and provides a low-intensity workout that does not significantly stress the body. Try using Pilates as part of a cross-training routine and for active recovery days.

Is Pilates a Good Start-of-the-Day Exercise?

Pilates is a type of exercise that can be done at any time of day. It’s not too vigorous for late-night workouts before bed, but it is also a refreshing workout that can help you wake up in the morning. There are a few good reasons to try Pilates first thing in the morning:

  • The intensity level is just enough to wake you up without being too jarring.
  • A good workout in the morning sets the tone for the day.
  • Morning Pilates can be restorative if you have sore or tight muscles from sleeping or from the previous day.
  • A morning session will kick start your metabolism, so you start burning calories right away.
  • Pilates strengthens the core. Engaging those muscles first thing in the morning supports healthy functional movements throughout the day and reduces injury risks.

Is Pilates a Good Strength-Training Workout?

Pilates is an excellent strength-training workout, but it is not without limitations. Pilates is best for strengthening the core, the powerhouse muscles of the body that form the foundation of all movements. It will strengthen the back, abdominals, glutes and hips in particular.

You can also try some Pilates movements that will work the legs and arms, but these are not the focus of the workout. For a completely balanced workout routine, combine regular Pilates practice with a couple of weightlifting sessions per week that work these other muscle groups.

Is Pilates a Good Training Program for Runners?

Pilates is a good workout for all types of athletes because of its focus on the core, among other reasons. Core strength allows you to perform all other types of movements better and more efficiently. It improves balance and posture, so that you are less likely to get injured. Several things make Pilates a good regular workout choice between runs:

  • It improves hip mobility, and hips tend to get tight in runners, limiting speed and stride.
  • Core strength from Pilates improves stability for better running form.
  • Improved muscle strength reduces injury risk while running.
  • The focus on breathing and control in Pilates benefits pace while running.
  • A Pilates session can help you recover after a run with stretching, improved blood flow and low-impact moves.

Is Pilates Aerobic or Anaerobic?

The term aerobic means that cells in the body use oxygen to produce energy. Any exercise that is done at lower intensity and for longer periods of time is aerobic. Anaerobic is higher-intensity and short in duration, resulting in the body using energy without oxygen.

Resistance training workouts, including Pilates, are generally anaerobic. You can add aerobic exercise to a Pilates workout to make it more well-rounded. The best workout routines include a combination of anaerobic and aerobic routines. Examples of aerobic exercises to do between Pilates sessions include long, steady running, cycling or swimming. Even a vigorous walk counts as aerobic.

Pilates is a great workout for many people and for several reasons. Together with other types of exercise, rest days and a healthy diet, Pilates can improve muscle strength, body composition, weight and overall health. Always check with your doctor before starting any new kind of exercise, especially if you have medical conditions.

See also:

What Should I Bring to a Pilates Class?
How Much do Pilates Classes Cost?
Can Plus-Size and Overweight People Do Pilates?
The Mental Benefits of Pilates? Less Stress, More Control
Can You Do Pilates While Pregnant?
Is Reformer Pilates Good for Weight Loss?
How Pilates Helps You Stay Active all Day
Principles of Pilates
What’s the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates? Which is harder?
What Are the Benefits of Pilates?