Is Pilates good for weight loss?

by Hara Hagikalfa on July 4, 2012 · 3 comments

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It is well established that exercise can help in weight loss, but is any exercise good for weight loss? Some regimes like Pilates and Yoga have been known for their benefits in elements such as increasing flexibility, improve posture, toning the body and improve joint mobility. Some Studios and techniques do advocate that Pilates will help you to lose weight. The question here is how far is that true and does it worth adding some Pilates in your workout.

Pilates exercise

Pilates is a form of exercise and as any exercise it will help in burning some calories. Pilates exercises mainly target the back, abdominal and hip muscles and they use the body’s own weight and resistance to work the specific muscles. Exercises are meant to be performed slowly and in a controlled fashion. In its theory, it teaches the body how to use its own mechanisms to recruit the ‘core’ muscles throughout the body.

Originally Pilates was popular with dancers and in rehabilitation. As with everything else, Pilates have evolved through the years and there are a number of different techniques and schools teaching slightly different variations.

What are they good for?

As I already mentioned some aspects of Pilates have been studied and looked into more detail. However, because there are so many different techniques developed not all points could apply to all techniques or they may be aspects missed out. In general Pilates are known to:

Rehabilitation of athletes

Help in the rehabilitation of athletes such as gymnasts and dancers. Historically Pilates originated and were widely used as a rehabilitation tool.

Good for low back pain

Studies do suggest that they may provide positive results for the treatment of non-specific low back pain.

Increase flexibility and movement

Some studies have also looked into other aspects of injury rehabilitation such post hip injury treatment. In general, they are believed to help increase flexibility and range of movement.

Better posture

Helps with improving posture. This can have both health and appearance benefits.

Changes the shape of the body

It is advocated by Pilates fanatics and experts that it changes the shape of the body; For the best always. Toning the muscles in areas such as hips and abdomen can give the flat tummy effect and also take inches of the hips and waist. These areas also appear firm.

Pre and Post pregnancy benefits

Some Pilates programmes are tailored for pregnancy and they advocate to help in birth pre and post natal condition. Some examples of benefits include alleviating back pain, keeping deep and superficial abdominal muscles conditioned and therefore help in carrying the baby through pregnancy and be able to get back in shape easier after birth.

Pilates and weight loss

Some experts suggest that the link of Pilates with weight loss is just a miss-presentation of the product. In simple words Pilates is not an efficient tool for losing weight. In terms of science there is not a lot of information available. Pilates has been researched in terms of its rehabilitation/treatment role in different conditions like back pain, however, there is very little in terms of weight loss.

Can be used for losing weight provided that…

One study suggests that one hour of Pilates exercises can use between 241 to 421 kcal. The amount of calories used will depend both on the individual and the intensity of the exercise, so we will treat this as an average guide rather than a stepping stone. Even so, it is clear that it in comparison to other forms of exercise it is not the most calorie efficient.

However, this does not mean that it can’t help in part in losing weight. What you should have in mind:

  • If you never exercised before a beginners class of Pilates exercises can seem as climbing a mountain so your body will be working hard. If you are well fit and exercise regularly the same class may not provide as much challenge.
  • A number of different techniques use apparatus such as resistance bands, balls and machines (i.e. Cadillac and the reformer). These apparatus can provide extra resistance and increase the intensity of the movements. Although these to my knowledge have not been looked at in terms of calories as such, increasing the effort you have to exert should increase the calories used.
  • As with every form of exercise, what you get out of it depends on what you put in. How much you exercise, how much effort you put in during the exercise, the intensity of the class, how often etc are all important factors. If you stack at the same level, repeating the same exercises for the past 2 months and you only go once a week you may not see the best results.
  • Pilates, as mentioned already, are good for toning the muscles in the abdomen and back and the hips. As a result people who use Pilates advocate that Pilates changes the shape of the body. In other words it could take of inches and tone those areas which otherwise may look fatty and flabby. My favourite part about Pilates is that it can give the flat tummy effect. Clothes never looked better on!
  • What exercise is best also can depend on what you want to achieve and how much weight you want to lose. If it is a matter of getting in shape Pilates may be just right. If you need to lose 100lbs then Pilates alone may not be sufficient. This does not mean that Pilates will not be of any benefit and you shouldn’t include it in your exercise program. However, you may want to combine it with more resistance and some cardio exercises and exercise a few days a week.
  • Following from above, if you are carrying a lot of weight, Pilates can be a good starting point. A lot of exercises can be very strenuous for the joints and back because your body may already be under a lot of pressure to carry the extra weight. Pilates is performed slowly and controlled and a lot of the exercises are floor mat based. So you can tone and condition your muscles without placing too much strain on the other structures (ligaments, joints etc.) and therefore decrease the risk of injuries. You can then add and build on your exercise regime in a possibly safer way.
  • In losing weight diet does play an important role. Always combine a healthy balanced diet appropriate for weight loss with any exercise. What you eat does matter and sometime it may actually have the opposite results regardless of your exercise. See also exercising and not losing weight.
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Hara Hagikalfa
About the author

Hara is a certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor. She is currently in the process of becoming a certified Physiotherapist. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+

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