Is Pilates Good For Weight Loss? 3 Helpful Tips To Do It Right


All types of exercise burn calories because being physically active requires more energy expenditure than being in a resting state, but more vigorous types of exercise burn more calories and can therefore help you lose more weight.

So, where does Pilates fit in? Is Pilates good for weight loss? Does Pilates help you lose weight?

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of Pilates, focusing on if Pilates is good for weight loss and how to best use Pilates for weight loss.

We will cover: 

  • Is Pilates Good For Weight Loss?
  • Can You Lose Weight With Pilates?
  • 3 Tips for Doing Pilates for Weight Loss

Let’s get started!

A person rolling out a Pilates mat.

Is Pilates Good For Weight Loss?

Weight loss is ultimately a matter of burning more calories than you consume.

Most health and fitness experts and research suggest that the most effective way to lose weight is taking a dual-pronged approach of following a calorie-controlled diet and getting regular exercise.

In order to lose one pound of body fat, you need to create a caloric deficit of 3500 calories, which can be thought of as burning an additional 500 calories per day over your caloric intake to lose one pound per week.

Again, this caloric deficit can be generated through calorie restriction, exercise, or a combination of both, with the combined approach typically being the most successful.

Although most people turn to aerobic exercise like running, walking, cycling, or swimming to burn calories, resistance training exercises, including bodyweight exercises like Pilates, also burn calories and can thus contribute to weight loss.

People in a Pilates class.

With that said, although Pilates workouts do burn calories, Pilates is not usually the most efficient way to lose weight because most styles of Pilates are relatively low intensity compared to some other forms of exercise such as running, indoor cycling, heavy resistance training with weights, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

However, depending on your fitness level and whether you are simply adding Pilates to your workout routine or using it as your sole form of deliberate exercise, Pilates can help you lose weight.

For example, if you are currently maintaining your weight with the amount of physical activity you are doing relative to the number of calories you are consuming, if you add a Pilates workout to your routine several days per week, you can lose weight with Pilates.

The number of calories you burn doing Pilates depends on your body size, the intensity of your Pilates workouts, and the length of each workout session.

People on Pilates machines.

For the purpose of our example, let’s imagine you want to do Pilates for weight loss, so you decide to add a Pilates workout to your existing weight maintenance routine five days a week and that each Pilates workout burns 300 calories.

This means that you will be burning an additional 1500 calories per week.

As a result, you will lose about 1.75 pounds per month or an extra 22.25 pounds per year. Therefore, it’s certainly possible to use Pilates for weight loss.

Can You Lose Weight With Pilates? 

In addition to directly burning calories to support weight loss, there are other ways in which Pilates is good for weight loss.

Pilates is good for weight loss mainly because, as a bodyweight strengthening modality, Pilates can help you increase your lean body mass, and many people experience mindfulness and mind shift changes with Pilates that help facilitate other healthier lifestyle habits that make it easier to support weight loss.

Let’s look at each of these:

A person with a Pilates resistance circle.

Pilates Can Boost Your Metabolic Rate

Although strength training with weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, and other heavy weights is the best way to actually build muscle (hypertrophy), studies show that it is possible to build some muscle and improve your body composition through Pilates workouts.

Body composition changes from Pilates will be increased, particularly if you are a beginner or are performing more challenging Pilates exercises such as Pilates reformer moves or Pilates floor exercises that are designed to increase strength in major muscles of the body, including the legs.

The Pilates reformer machine uses resistance in the form of heavy springs as the platform slides back and forth. This device acts in many ways, like cable resistance machines or resistance bands, and can therefore be a highly effective way to not only increase strength but also build muscle.

As you increase your lean body mass, your metabolic rate increases because muscle tissue is about eight times more metabolically active than adipose (fat) tissue. 

A trainer helps people with Pilates machines.

Therefore, the more muscle mass you can build with Pilates, the more calories you will burn not only during your workouts when your muscles are actually working but also all day long at rest. Essentially, building muscle increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

As your BMR increases, if you do not make compensatory adjustments in your diet by consuming more calories, you will gradually lose more weight because your daily caloric deficit will increase.

Studies have indeed found that Pilates can increase muscle mass and decrease body fat percentage. Again, this type of body recomposition not only improves your physique and overall health but also increases your metabolic rate and can facilitate faster weight loss.

In one study, participants who consistently performed Pilates workouts for eight weeks experienced a significant increase in lean body mass and a significant decrease in fat mass relative to the group who performed aerobic workouts during the study period.

People in a crossed-legged position in a Pilates class.

Pilates Can Lead to Healthier Choices 

Although not true for everyone, one of the primary ways in which Pilates can be good for weight loss is due to the psychological improvements that come from a consistent Pilates workout routine. 

Much like yoga, Pilates can increase your mind-body connection and help you become more mindful in your daily life and in tune with your body.

Many people who start a consistent Pilates practice find that the mindfulness and self-care they develop on the reformer or mat infiltrate their mindset throughout the day, such that they are more inclined to eat better and feed their bodies with nourishing foods.

Because most health experts suggest that changes to your diet are often more impactful on weight loss results than exercise, if regularly doing Pilates helps make sticking to a healthier diet easier by influencing a mindset shift, Pilates can be great for weight loss. 

Pilates can help you connect to your body, reduce emotional eating, and encourage a mindset shift to replace unhealthy foods with more nutritious options.  

Pilates centers a lot on core training, posture, and proper alignment. All of these can help you prioritize the needs of your physical body and think more about how you are holding yourself, caring for yourself, and nourishing yourself. 

Studies do suggest that this “Pilates effect“ may help improve body composition over time. Therefore, while Pilates may not directly burn a ton of calories, it may indirectly support weight loss as part of a comprehensive diet and exercise lifestyle plan.

A person doing a side plank.

3 Tips for Doing Pilates for Weight Loss 

So, now that we’ve answered your question does Pilates help you lose weight, let’s check out some helpful tips for losing weight with Pilates:

#1: Increase the Intensity of Your Workouts

Low-intensity Pilates workouts that mainly involve slow, controlled core exercises that take place on the mat will not be the most effective way of doing Pilates for weight loss.

The reformer will be your best tool for losing weight with Pilates because it helps build muscle, increase the intensity of your workouts, and burn more calories. 

However, if you want to do at-home Pilates workouts and do not have access to a reformer, perform metabolically-challenging Pilates exercises such as Pilates push-ups, lunges, and leg exercises.

A person doing a single leg glute bridge.

#2: Increase the Duration and Frequency of Your Workouts

The more Pilates you do, the more calories you will burn.

Increase the length of your workouts and increase the frequency such that you are doing Pilates most days of the week to increase weight loss with Pilates workouts.

#3: Be Mindful of Your Diet

Once you step off a reformer or roll up your yoga mat, continue to carry the effects of your healthy self-care routine into the rest of your life.

Try to focus as much on diet as you do on your workouts, and try to eat nourishing, balanced foods from a variety of food groups.

Avoid processed foods, excess sugar, empty calories such as those found in sugar-sweetened beverages and junk food, processed oils, and alcohol.

Most importantly, if you are trying to do Pilates to lose weight, make sure that you are also trying to limit the number of calories you are eating so that you are maintaining a caloric deficit. You can estimate your individual caloric needs here.

Remember, there are so many benefits of Pilates that extend beyond burning calories and losing weight. Although it is certainly possible to do Pilates for weight loss, if you are not losing weight for Pilates, don’t give up your routine. Your body and mind are benefiting in many other ways.

To get started right away, we have some great Pilates exercises for the core that you can try out here!

A person on a Pilates machine.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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