What Pilates Exercises Should You Avoid If You Have Heart Problems?

Pilates is a form of exercise that is suitable for almost everyone. It strengthens and conditions your body, especially your core, whilst helping to develop a strong connection between the mind and the body.

Any pilates workout can be adapted to suit people of different abilities and fitness levels, and to accommodate for injuries or vulnerabilities in the body. 

But what about heart problems? Can you still take part in pilates if you have heart problems? Are there any pilates exercises that you should avoid? Keep reading to find out more. 

What Is Pilates? 

Pilates was founded in the early 20th Century by Joseph Pilates, a German personal trainer. It is a low impact exercise that aims to help the participant gain control over the body and their muscles through strength and conditioning.

You use your own body weight to tone your muscles and become lean and fit. It is combined with breathing exercises and meditation to create a connection between the mind and the body. 

Pilates has been compared to yoga, and it has a lot of the same benefits. However, it is not the same as yoga and the style of the classes is quite different. 

Who Can Take Part In Pilates?

Pilates is excellent for improving your overall body strength, your cardiovascular fitness, and your mental health. It is suitable for almost everyone because it can be adapted to suit your abilities. 

Pilates is a low impact exercise which means it is great for people with joint problems. It is also good for people with heart conditions, as it is a gentle and steady way to improve your cardiovascular health. 

If you want to start pilates and you are unsure if it is going to be suitable for you, it is best to seek advice from your Doctor. 

What Are The Different Types Of Pilates?

There are two main types of pilates – mat work and studio work. Both types of pilates target certain areas of the body and use controlled movements to build strength.

Mat work is more simplified and easier to adapt to account for injuries, illnesses and vulnerabilities. Studio work uses apparatus and can be more taxing on the body and the mind. 

If you are new to pilates it is best to start with mat work. This is especially important if you have any kind of heart problem. Mat work will allow you to ease yourself into pilates and figure out what your limits are.

Over time you will build strength and improve your cardiovascular health. If you feel you are ready to progress onto studio work then consult your Doctor to ensure that it is appropriate for your condition. 

Is Pilates Good For Heart Health?

When done correctly, pilates has been proven to assist with heart health. Pilates will help to improve your body weight composition, bringing down waist and hip measurements.

This has a direct impact on heart health and the risk of a heart attack. Pilates will also help to reduce your blood pressure. Pilates is also proven to increase muscle mass and burn fat. This will improve your metabolic rate.

Some of the main causes of heart disease are a lack of exercise, being overweight, having a high blood pressure, and stress. Pilates can help combat all of these things to prevent heart disease.

Because pilates targets every muscle in your body, it will improve the circulation of blood around your body which means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. 

To benefit from pilates you should aim to practice it at least twice a week. This should also be paired with changes in your diet to help bring down your blood pressure and improve your heart health. 

You should also consider adding another form of exercise into your routine – something gentle like swimming or walking. This type of exercise uses different muscles to pilates and helps your heart in different ways. 

What Can You Expect From Pilates?

As we mentioned earlier, if you have heart problems then it is best to stick to mat work initially.

During the mat work pilates sessions you will use the 6 key principles of pilates: centering, control, concentration, precision, breath and flow. You will work through a series of standing, seated and lying down exercises on your mat. 

Some basic equipment may be used during a mat work session, such as a sitting block or resistance rings. Your pilates teacher will show you how to use these items and will only recommend them to you if they think that you are ready. 

Your pilates teacher will often demonstrate two or three versions of the same movement – one for advanced learners, one for intermediate learners, and one for beginners. They will also talk you through which movements should be avoided for people with certain injuries.

If you have high blood pressure you should avoid holding your breath, or any movements that are inverted – this means that your head is below your hips. Speak to your pilates teacher about alternative movements you can try. 

One of the most important things to remember is that pilates should be challenging, but not painful.

Do not push your body too far as you could risk becoming injured or exacerbating your heart condition. You need to be patient and let your skills develop over time. 

Which Pilates Exercises Are Best For Heart Health?

Doctors have found that isometric exercises are best for people with heart conditions. During an isometric exercise, the muscles are held in constant tension and you do your best to regulate your breathing.

This pressure on the muscle is a great way to build strength. It makes your heart work a little harder, but it is still safe for people with heart problems. 

Isometric exercises tend to be less uncomfortable than anaerobic exercises, especially for people with heart problems.

Researchers found that people with heart problems are more likely to commit to an exercise routine based around isometric exercises, which means that they were able to reap the benefits and see real changes in their body and their health over a long period of time. 

Which Pilates Exercises Should You Avoid If You Have Heart Problems?

You should always notify your pilates teacher of any health conditions you have before you start your class. This will ensure that they can advise you which exercises you should avoid or modify to ensure that you don’t put yourself at risk or exacerbate your condition. 

If you suffer from heart problems then you should avoid any positions that are inverted. This is any position where your head is lower than your hips.

This is especially important if you have high blood pressure. Your pilates teacher will be able to advise you of an alternative movement you can try, or how to adapt the movement to keep your head higher than your hips. 

During a pilates class, you need to listen to your body. If there is a movement or a position that seems to be putting your heart under too much stress, stop immediately and take a rest.

Pilates is a low impact exercise that should challenge your body without putting it under too much stress. You can build up your fitness and tolerance gradually in a safe way. 

One of the great things about pilates is that you can go at your own pace. Try to avoid comparing yourself to other people in the class.

Everyone’s body is different and people have varying levels of flexibility. If you are consistent with your pilates practice then you will see a big improvement after several months. 


Pilates can be excellent for your heart health as it helps to reduce blood pressure, bring down body fat and relieve stress.

You should always check with your doctor before beginning a new form of exercise, and remember to take it at your own pace.