Will Pilates Help You Lose Weight?

Weight Loss, Metabolism, and the Pilates Effect

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Can Pilates help you lose weight? You've probably heard that one of the most successful ways to lose weight is the combination of a calorie-restricted diet and regular exercise. What you might not know is that bodyweight and resistance training exercises like Pilates can also lead to weight loss.

Find out why Pilates can be an effective tool if you are trying to get fit and lose weight.

Calorie Burn with Pilates

Whether you are primarily sedentary or very busy but not particularly active, a Pilates workout will increase your total caloric expenditure from whatever your baseline is to a few hundred calories above that.

If you typically burn 1,200 calories on an average day and you add a 300 calorie workout to your routine, you will be burning a total of 1,500 calories or 25% more than you were before you added the workout. This applies to all exercise that you add to your existing regimen, not just Pilates.

It's important to understand that an uptick in activity increases your calorie burn, which contributes to weight loss.

Boost Your Metabolic Rate

The second way in which Pilates promotes weight loss is by impacting your overall body composition. Many people who seek to lose weight aren’t necessarily looking to drop pounds. Instead, their goal might be to redistribute some of their weight.

If you were the same weight but stronger and toned, would you want to weigh less? Probably not. Most people are interested in developing more lean muscle mass and losing fat. To change your muscle-to-fat ratio, you must perform resistance training.

You can choose from bodyweight training or actual weight training to accomplish this. Pilates, as it turns out, makes use of both. Proper Pilates workouts require you to master a series of bodyweight exercises on the Pilates mat and seemingly endless routines on several distinctive Pilates resistance devices.

Note that Pilates employs large, heavy springs instead of weights so that you will be using many different levels of resistance custom-tailored to your strength and ability.

Changing your body composition by adding muscle and reducing fat will positively impact your basal metabolic rate. The more muscle you add, the more calories you will burn at rest.

Pilates offers two distinct types of resistance training to help you accomplish this. In fact, in a study published in 2019, participants who did Pilates workouts for 8 weeks had a more significant increase in lean mass (and more fat loss) than their counterparts who did aerobic workouts for 8 weeks.

The Pilates Effect

It’s the secret sauce of Pilates practitioners everywhere who call it the Pilates effect. Step into a Pilates workout, and you’ll be forced to lift your abdominals in and up, retract your shoulders, and lengthen your neck.

By the end of a Pilates class, your spine will elongate, your waist will narrow, and your chest will lift proudly. Your posture undergoes a complete overhaul leaving you looking and feeling longer and taller than you did just one hour earlier, which may motivate you to keep coming back for more.

Home Pilates Exercises for Weight Loss

The following at-home Pilates exercises are recommended for those who want to lose weight and include moves you might recognize from traditional fitness. Pilates has strong roots in gymnastics and calisthenics, so don’t be surprised if you recognize some of the choreography.

Try a few if you are just beginning Pilates or looking to supplement your cardio workouts with some resistance training to boost your weight loss results.

If you’re ready for next-level Pilates, where you tackle the springs and the signature apparatuses that Pilates is known for, get to a Pilates studio and sign up for a one-on-one lesson where you can experience all the available different types of equipment.

Lunge Warm Up

Grab some weights between 2 to 3 pounds and stand tall. Make a "Y" shape with your feet, standing with one heel into the other arch.

  1. Lunge out onto a bent leg raising the arms briskly overhead. The back leg stays straight.
  2. Drag the front leg back to its starting position as you lower the arms.
  3. Repeat 8 to 10 times and change sides.

Muscles targeted: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Deltoids

Pilates Push-Ups

Stand tall and reach overhead before rounding over and walking your hands out to a push-up or plank position.

  1. Perform 3 to 5 push-ups.
  2. Walk your hands back into your feet and roll up to standing.
  3. Repeat 3 to 4 sets.

Muscles targeted: Back, Core, Shoulders

Standing Footwork

Stand with your feet a bit narrower than your hips in parallel and arms crossed genie-style.

  1. Squat halfway down bending the hips and knees but keeping the spine upright.
  2. Hold at the lowest point for three counts.
  3. Stand back up.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times for 1 set. Perform 2 sets total.

Muscles targeted: Gluteals, Hamstrings

Leg Pull-Up

The muscles on the backside of the body are large and dense. Increasing their strength and volume will impact your metabolism.

  1. Sit tall with your legs together in front of you and your hands behind your hips. The fingers face forward.
  2. Press the hips up in the air making a straight line with your body.
  3. Hold for 5 breaths.
  4. Lower and repeat 5 to 8 times.
  5. As you progress, you can add a kicking motion, raising one leg at a time.

Muscles targeted: Gluteals, Hamstrings, Triceps, Latissimus Dorsi

A Word From Verywell

Pilates is an excellent form of exercise, no matter your fitness goals. While it may not burn as many calories as other forms of exercise, Pilates helps build muscle and encourages good posture, both of which provide a slimming effect to your appearance.

If you’re trying to lose significant weight, you’ll want to do Pilates two to three times a week and regularly work with the spring-driven equipment. Just be sure to consult your healthcare provider first before starting a new exercise program.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Fock KM, Khoo J. Diet and exercise in management of obesity and overweightJ Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013;28 Suppl 4:59-63. doi:10.1111/jgh.12407

  2. Şavkin R, Aslan UB. The effect of Pilates exercise on body composition in sedentary overweight and obese womenJ Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017;57(11):1464-1470. doi:10.23736/S0022-4707.16.06465-3

  3. McPherron AC, Guo T, Bond ND, Gavrilova O. Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolismAdipocyte. 2013;2(2):92-98. doi:10.4161/adip.22500

  4. Rayes ABR, de Lira CAB, Viana RB, et al. The effects of Pilates vs. aerobic training on cardiorespiratory fitness, isokinetic muscular strength, body composition, and functional tasks outcomes for individuals who are overweight/obese: a clinical trialPeerJ. 2019;7:e6022. Published 2019 Feb 28. doi:10.7717/peerj.6022

  5. Lee HT, Oh HO, Han HS, Jin KY, Roh HL. Effect of mat pilates exercise on postural alignment and body composition of middle-aged womenJ Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(6):1691–1695. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.1691

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.