Modified on

Is Pilates good for weight loss: The truth about Pilates and weight loss

Take the quiz

Are you struggling to lose those extra pounds? Are you tired of trying different workouts and diets that don't work? It may be time to give Pilates a try.

Pilates is a low-impact, full-body workout that can help you build strength and flexibility, tone your muscles and build lean muscle mass. But is Pilates good for weight loss? Let's separate fact from fiction and explore the truth about Pilates and weight loss.

Pilates and weight loss: Separating fact from fiction

Pilates may be just what you need if you're looking for a low-impact workout to support your weight-loss journey. This popular exercise method has been used by dancers for decades—and it’s gained a reputation for being gentle on the joints while still providing a challenging workout. However, the misconceptions surrounding Pilates and weight loss can make it difficult to decide if this workout is right for you.

Debunking common myths about Pilates and weight loss

Myth #1: Pilates is too easy to help you lose weight.

Fact: While Pilates is not a high-impact form of exercise, it’s still a challenging workout that can help you shed pounds, according to a 2021 study on Pilates’ impact on overweight and obesity. Pilates exercises target specific muscle groups and build strength, which can help build lean body mass and increase metabolism so that you burn more calories throughout the day.

Myth #2: Pilates only targets specific muscles, not overall weight loss.

Fact: Pilates exercises target multiple muscle groups at once, keeping the core muscles activated throughout the workout. While Pilates may not be a high-intensity cardio workout, it can still provide cardiovascular benefits that can help you reach your weight-loss goals when combined with other lifestyle changes.

Myth #3: Pilates won't help you lose weight if you don't change your diet.

Fact: While diet is essential to weight loss, Pilates can still be effective for managing weight. Pilates helps build lean muscle mass, which can help the body burn calories more efficiently. Combining Pilates with a healthy diet can enhance your results and overall health.

In addition to helping you lose weight, Pilates can also provide other health benefits. The practice of Pilates improves posture, reduces stress, and increases flexibility and range of motion. Pilates also strengthens your core muscles, which improves balance and stability.

If you're new to Pilates, starting slowly and working with a qualified instructor who can help you learn proper form and technique is important. You can modify Pilates exercises to suit your fitness level, so don't be afraid to ask your instructor for modifications if you're struggling with a particular movement.

The science behind Pilates and weight loss

Now that we've debunked the myths let's dive into the science of why Pilates can be an effective workout for weight loss.

Research-backed benefits of Pilates for weight loss

While Pilates is often associated with toning and strengthening, it is also a great way to burn calories and lose weight. A small study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise found that Pilates can burn up to 254 calories during a 50-minute routine, similar to a moderate-intensity cardio workout. This calorie burn can increase even more if you incorporate Pilates into a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine.

Another study, published in 2017 in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, found that Pilates can improve muscle mass and body composition, leading to fat loss in sedentary women with overweight or obesity. Pilates is a full-body workout that targets  major muscle groups, including the core, arms, legs, and glutes. Building lean muscle mass can increase metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day.

In addition to burning calories and building muscle, Pilates also strengthens the body’s core muscles. A strong core can improve posture and overall fitness and reduce back pain. When you have a strong core, you're able perform other exercises with more ease, which can lead to additional weight loss. For example, a strong core can allow you to lift heavier weights during strength training, increasing muscle mass and burning more calories.

But Pilates isn't just about its physical benefits. The practice of Pilates may also improve mental health and well-being. Pilates emphasizes mindfulness, deep breathing, and relaxation, which can reduce stress and anxiety. When you're less stressed, you may be likely to engage in emotional eating or other unhealthy behaviors that can sabotage weight-loss goals.

As a low-impact, full-body workout that can help you burn calories, build muscle, and improve your physical and mental health, Pilates may be a great fit.

How many calories can you burn with Pilates?

If you’re looking for a low-impact exercise to help burn calories and tone your body, check out Pilates. This popular, century-old form of exercise focuses on strength and flexibility and improves balance, posture, and core strength.

So, how many calories can you expect to burn with Pilates? The answer depends on several factors, including weight, age, sex, and workout intensity. For example, a 180-pound person can burn around 257 calories in a one-hour Pilates mat session. In contrast, a 210-pound person can burn around 300 calories in a one-hour intermediate workout. Experts suggest that you can burn between 4 and 7.5 calories a minute doing Pilates, depending on the level of the workout. You’ll need at least four forty-five-to-sixty-minute sessions a week for weight loss. 

While this may not seem as challenging as high-intensity workouts like running or cycling, Pilates also offers other benefits that make it a great addition to any fitness routine. For one, it's a low-impact exercise, making it easier on your joints and less likely to cause injury. And it also improves posture and develops long, lean muscles.

Understanding the relationship between calories and weight loss

Losing weight requires a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories than you consume. When combined with a healthy diet and other forms of exercise,  Pilates can help you burn the calories that are crucial to achieving your weight-loss goals.

You might consider incorporating cardio exercises like walking or swimming into your routine in addition to Pilates to up the calories you burn. You can also focus on eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to support healthy weight management..

Weight loss is a journey; there's no one-size-fits-all solution. It's important to find a fitness routine and diet plan that works for your unique needs and goals. Achieving a healthy, flexible and strong body is possible when you dedicate time and consistency to your Pilates practice.

Finding the right Pilates routine for your weight-loss goals

Now that you know the science behind Pilates and weight loss, let's dive deeper into how to find the right Pilates routine for your goals.

Pilates movements that can help maximize strength and help with weight loss

You can try several of these movements to get the best results with Pilates and weight loss.

  • Plank variations: This exercise targets multiple muscles and can help improve your posture and core strength. As a bonus, It’s easy to modify to fit any fitness level.

  • Bridging: This exercise strengthens your glutes, which can help improve your posture and prevent lower back pain. It also activates your hamstrings and lower back muscles, making it a great full-body workout.

  • The Hundred: This classic Pilates move targets your abs and can elevate your heart rate.. Plus, this mat exercise is a great way to warm up your core before diving into other exercises.

  • Roll Up: This exercise targets the entire abdominal region and can also improve flexibility and mobility. It's a challenging move, but it’ll get easier after some (okay, maybe lots of) practice. A key component to this move is deep breathing as you roll your torso up from the mat.

Don't stop there. Pilates is a versatile form of exercise, and you can incorporate countless other moves into your routine. Add some Pilates mat exercises like the Teaser, the Side Kick, the Boomerang, and Leg Pull-Front to challenge your muscles.

While Pilates is a great way to tone your muscles and improve your overall fitness, remember that weight loss also requires a healthy diet. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your meals can help you achieve your weight-loss goals.

The Pilates Effect: How it can help you lose weight and keep it off

Pilates has become increasingly popular as a form of exercise to increase flexibility and to build long, lean muscles. Increased lean muscle mass can increase metabolism—lean muscle burns more calories than fat which can help with  weight. However, the benefits of Pilates extend well beyond weight loss. Consistent Pilates practice can help maintain weight loss, boost the immune system, increase energy levels, and improve one’s overall well-being.

Pilates targets the body's core muscles, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles. By strengthening these muscles, Pilates can help you achieve a better posture and a leaner more toned appearance.

Furthermore, Pilates helps build muscle mass, which can help your body burn more calories, even at rest. So even when you're not actively working out, you will burn more calories than if you didn't have as much lean muscle mass.

Pilates can also help improve your immune system. When you exercise, your body produces more white blood cells, which help fight off infections and diseases. Exercise also slows the release of stress hormones, which may protect against illness.  Doing Pilates as part of your weekly movement may help you stay healthy and avoid illnesses.

In addition to its physical benefits, Pilates can also have a positive impact on your mental health. Pilates is considered a form of mind-body exercise which incorporates both physical movement and mental focus. This can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve your overall mood.

Another benefit of Pilates is that it is adaptable to a wide range of fitness levels and abilities. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced athlete, there are Pilates exercises that can challenge you and help you achieve your fitness goals.

Tips for incorporating Pilates into your weight-loss journey

Are you ready to incorporate Pilates into your weight-loss journey? These tips will help you get started:

Pilates diet: Fuel your weight loss: Incorporate foods that support your Pilates practice

A balanced diet that complements your Pilates practice can help improve your results and should include lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Lean proteins, like chicken, fish, and tofu, can help build muscle and aid recovery after a Pilates workout. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that can help improve your overall health, while whole grains like brown rice and quinoa can provide sustained energy throughout your workout, and your day.

Stay motivated: How to make Pilates a sustainable part of your weight-loss plan

Staying motivated is key to making Pilates a sustainable part of your weight-loss plan. Here are a few ways to keep yourself motivated:

  • Set achievable goals and track your progress. Whether you want to lose a certain amount of weight or be able to perform a specific Pilates move, setting goals helps keep you on track.

  • Join a Pilates class or find a workout buddy to keep yourself accountable. Exercising with others can keep you motivated and provide you with a support system.

  • Try different Pilates routines to prevent boredom and challenge yourself. Pilates offers various exercises targeting different areas of your body, so mix up the moves to keep things interesting.

Remember, Pilates is only one part of the weight-loss journey. It's also important to incorporate cardiovascular exercise and a healthy diet to achieve your weight-loss goals. Incorporating Pilates into your routine can build a strong, toned body and improve overall health and well-being.

Takeaway: Pilates can be a valuable tool for weight loss, but it's not a magic solution

So, is Pilates good for weight loss? While Pilates can be an effective tool for weight loss, combining it with a healthy diet and other forms of exercise is crucial for the best results. Pilates can help you build strength, increase flexibility, and improve your fitness level, which, as a part of a healthy lifestyle, can lead to weight loss and a healthier body.

Found’s online medical weight-loss program can also help you achieve your weight-loss goals. Our health care professionals can review your goals and medical history and prescribe a medication to help you achieve sustainable weight loss, whether a GLP-1 like Wegovy® or Saxenda® or another medication class like topiramate.

Take our eligibility quiz to learn how Found’s weight-loss program can help you.

Find out what path is right for you