Can Plus-Size and Overweight People Do Pilates?
Being overweight is not unusual, but too many people carrying extra pounds feel intimidated by exercise and gyms. Pilates, in particular, is often associated with very lean, trim practitioners. If you aren’t thin, you may think this kind of exercise just isn’t for you.
The truth is that Pilates is suitable for just about everyone. Exceptions include people with certain injuries, medical conditions or recent surgeries. If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor before trying any new exercise routine. With the right trainer, you can safely practice Pilates and get the health benefits.
Benefits of Pilates for Overweight and Plus-Sized People
Pilates is not a big calorie burner, but it is a good workout that builds strength and muscle mass. As your body gets stronger, you burn more calories daily, which means you can lose fat while putting on muscle. Studies prove this.
In one study, women considered to be obese or overweight and also sedentary participated in eight weeks of Pilates. They practiced for 90 minutes, three times per week. The women overwhelmingly lost inches around their waist and hips and also lost body fat and dropped in weight and BMI. They lost fat and gained muscle.
Back pain is not uncommon when you have extra eight on your body. Another benefit of Pilates is that it can reduce chronic back pain. A review of multiple studies of Pilates and pain found that regular practice can be effective as a management tool.
Anyone, at any size, can benefit from regular Pilates practice in other ways: increased flexibility, improved spinal alignment and posture, increased core strength, better balance, and improved overall strength.
Potential Issues of Pilates for Plus-Sized Practitioners
You should definitely talk to your doctor before trying Pilates, especially if you are significantly overweight or obese. Pilates uses bodyweight exercises. You support the weight of your body to build strength. If you are overweight, this can put extra pressure on joints and your spine, causing pain or even injuries. You may also be at a greater risk of falling during Pilates if your balance is impaired by a weak core.
For these reasons, it is important to start slowly, to use modifications as needed, and to work with experienced instructors. You can probably even find classes designed for plus-sized clients. Also, keep in mind that Pilates equipment is durable and sturdy. Each piece is rated to a certain weight, so your instructor can be sure it works for each client.
Best Pilates Moves and Modifications for Plus-Sized Bodies
The best way to begin Pilates if you are worried about safety and form is to work with an experienced instructor. However, there are some good beginner exercises and moves you can do at home with just a mat. These are exercises that are simple, easy to modify and that will start to build your strength slowly, preparing you for more advanced work:
- The Roll Up. Many of the beginner and foundational Pilates moves focus on core strength. As you build ab and back muscles, you will be more confident doing other exercises. To do the roll up, start on your back on a mat, legs out straight and arms over your head. Lift your arms forward and begin to roll your head, neck and back off the mat a little bit at a time. Modify this move by bending at the knees as you roll into a sitting position. If you can’t get all the way to sitting, roll up as far as you can and slowly lower back.
- The Hundred. This is another fundamental ab exercise. Lying on your back, arms straight at your sides, bend your knees and bring them to a 45-degree angle. Your calves will be above the floor, parallel to the mat. Lift your head and shoulders up while tightening your ab muscles. Pulse your arms up and down. Start easy with just 10 or 15 seconds and work your way up to holding the position and arm pulses longer and longer.
- The Swimming. This move will start to strengthen your back and glutes. Lying face down on the mat, arms and legs straight out in front and back, raise the right arm and the left leg. Squeeze the back and glute muscles and release. Repeat with the left arm and right leg. Go back and forth between each side.
- The Swan. This is a nice stretch that also works on strength in your back and arms. It doesn’t require you to put your full weight on your arms, so it’s a good starter move. Lie face down on the mat. Place the palms of your hands flat on the mat alongside your chest. Lift the upper body by pressing down into the mat. If you can, go up until your arms are straight. If you can’t do that yet, just go up a little and hold for a few seconds.
- The Supported Roll Back. Rolling like a ball is a classic Pilates move that massages the spine and works the abs. It may be a little difficult to do right off the bat, so start with this supported move. Sit upright on the mat with feet flat on the floor and your knees bent and pointing toward the ceiling. Hold onto the backs of your thighs with your hands and curve your chest over your knees. Slowly lean back as far as you can without falling and then roll back up to sitting. Eventually, let the support of your hands go and do a complete rolling like a ball move. For this, your hands will be on the fronts of your legs as you roll back and forth unsupported.
- The Plank. When you start to feel a little stronger, try the plank, which is easy to modify. In full plank, your palms and toes are the only things on the mat holding your body in a rigid line. To modify, put your knees down on the mat. Focus on keeping your hips up so that you make a straight line from your head to your knees. Hold it for a few seconds to start. Work up to longer starts and eventually to doing a full plank on your toes.
- Single-Leg Circles. This move is deceptively simple but will work your abs and hips. Lie on the mat on your back with your legs straight and arms at your sides. Lift one leg up and move it in a circle. Reverse the direction and do the same with the other leg. As you make the circle, focus on keeping your hips stable and still on the floor. This requires good core strength. To modify, start with very small circles. As you find it easier to keep your hips stable, widen the circle.
Pilates is not just for people who are already skinny and toned. With the right exercises and modifications, and ideally with an experienced instructor, you can get significant benefits from regular practice. If you’re hoping to lose weight, try doing Pilates a few times a week but mix it up with cardio workouts and recovery days. A balanced approach to fitness is best for people of all sizes.