Will Pilates Help You Lose Weight?

Weight Loss, Metabolism, and the Pilates Effect

Woman doing the leg pull up

Will Pilates help you lose weight? Everyone knows the magic combination of diet and exercise can help you shed pounds more quickly than either one alone. What you might not know is that bodyweight and resistance training exercises like Pilates can be just as effective as a cardio workout when it comes to weight loss. Discover the simple reasons that Pilates is an effective tool if you are trying to reduce that number on the scale.

Calorie Burn with Pilates

The first reason is simple math. If you are a largely sedentary person or even a very busy person 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 1200 calories in a normal day and you add a 300 calorie workout to your routine, you will be burning a total of 1500 calories or 25 percent more than you were before you added the workout. This applies for all exercise that you add on to your existing regimen, not just Pilates. However, it is important to understand that an uptick in your activity is an uptick in your calorie burn which leads directly to weight loss.

Boost Your Metabolic Rate

The second way in which Pilates assists in weight loss is by impacting your overall body composition. Many people who seek to lose weight aren’t necessarily looking to be smaller. It’s a redistribution that many of us are looking for.

If you were the same exact weight but sculpted and toned would you want to weigh less? Likely not. When we look in the mirror what we largely want to see is taut toned muscles and a minimum of excess flesh. In other words, more lean muscle mass and less fat. In order 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 known as the Pilates mat as well as endless routines on several distinctive Pilates resistance devices. Note that Pilates employs large heavy springs as opposed to weights so you will be using many different levels of resistance custom tailored to your strength and capacity.

Changing your body composition by adding muscle and reducing fat will impact your basal metabolic rate in a positive way. The more muscle you add, the more calories you will burn at rest. Yes, you heard that correctly. You will burn more calories at rest simply by virtue of having added lean muscle to your body. 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 greater increase in lean mass (and more fat loss) than their counterparts who did aerobic workouts for 8 weeks.

The Pilates Effect

If these separate physiological reasons aren’t enough to sell you on Pilates for weight loss, there’s one final reason that should cinch the deal.

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 up proudly. Your posture undergoes a complete overhaul leaving you looking and feeling longer and taller than you did just one hour earlier.

Home Pilates Exercises for Weight Loss

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

Lunge Warm Up

Grab some weights between 2 to 3 lbs and stand tall. Make a "Y" shape with your feet standing with one heel into the other arch. Lunge out onto a bent leg raising the arms briskly overhead. The back leg stays straight. Drag the front leg back to its starting position as you lower the arms. 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. Perform 3 to 5 Push Ups then walk your hands back into your feet and roll up to standing. 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. Squat half way down bending the hips and knees but keeping the spine upright. Hold at the lowest point for 3 counts. Then stand back up. 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. Sit tall with your legs together in front of you and your hands behind your hips. The fingers face forward. Press the hips up in the air making a straight line with your body. Hold for 5 breaths. Lower and repeat 5 to 8 times. As you progress you can add a kicking motion, raising one leg at a time.

Muscles targeted: Gluteals, Hamstrings, Triceps, Latissimus Dorsi

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 different types of equipment that are available. If you’re trying to lose significant weight, you’ll want to do Pilates two to three times a week and work with the spring driven equipment regularly. 

Was this page helpful?
Article 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. 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

  2. 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