Can You Lose Weight by Practicing Pilates?

Katya: Let’s start with a popular catchphrase of the Russian ballet legend Maya Plisetskaya (1925-2015): “One should eat a bit less”. This was her standard reply to endless questions about retaining her beautiful shape well into her golden years. 

But just being thin is not enough if you wish to look and feel your best. When you slouch your movements are rigid, your muscles are weak, and/or you have a forward head posture. Even with the best plastic surgery, you will not be able to hide your age! It is a fact that proper posture, a flatter stomach, a longer neck, and an effortless and confident walk have instant slimming and anti-ageing effects.

So, while Pilates can definitely help you burn calories, its benefits far outweigh just being lighter on the scale. In fact, weight loss comes as a welcome side effect. As with any mechanical structure, the human body needs good alignment and a proper relationship with gravity to function normally. Pilates, just like ballet, teaches you how to utilize deep postural muscles and to manage any deviation from your optimal posture. This helps to achieve muscular balance and prevent repetitive strain injuries occurring during physical activity, including sitting and standing. 

When we attempt weight loss by vigorously throwing ourselves into gym sessions, or performing over-the-top stretches, we often find ourselves forced to stop due to resultant injury. This can result in further despondency. Pilates is one of the safest ways of getting into shape and losing weight while learning about correct body mechanics.

Improving your core strength, flexibility and range of motion can also be the foundation for success in all athletic activities. And, with its intense focus on deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, Pilates has emerged as the most effective way to flatten your stomach. It has no impact on your joints, and targets, activates and tones small postural muscles that continue to work 24/7, burning calories even while you sleep. 

However, weight loss through Pilates practice depends on your commitment to attendance, and doing the homework. If you attend class once per week and focus on easy stretches, you can’t expect the weight loss results you might desire. Participating in a Pilates class twice or three times per week is optimal for seeing (and feeling) great results fast.

In addition to attendance intervals, it depends on the goals you set with your Pilates teacher. Irrespective of whether you do Matwork or Reformer workouts, the level and type of class need to be in line with your fitness and abilities. You should enjoy a challenge, but feel safe in exploring your personal potential. For example, a class at a physiotherapy practice is quite likely to be designed for those recovering from injury and will be focused on slow, precise movements that lend themselves to healing and targeted strengthening. On the other hand, Pilates at a gym often tends to be too generic to be life-changing.  

To obtain maximum fitness and weight loss benefits, I recommend learning the Pilates technique with a reputable Pilates teacher who will look at you holistically and take into consideration your weight loss goal, posture, injuries, general fitness, level of coordination and learning style.

At my studio, all clients initially attend private lessons during which we set and achieve realistic challenges before progressing into a more ‘hardcore’ group session, where the benefits of toning will be felt immediately.

In some cases, obesity may prevent clients from joining a group class initially, as many modifications are necessary and progress is achieved at a slower pace. Patience, humility and trust in the process are important qualities, as when learning anything new and unfamiliar. Soon enough, even the most generous clients are ready to slot into a group class, as they witness their extra weight fall away and their bodies transform.

Pilates provides a mental workout too, bringing your concentration to many things at the same time. It also taps into the fact that there is often a direct correlation between motion and emotion. Traumatic experiences from the past can result in movement patterns that cause tightness to the hips, chest and shoulders, and this can hold us back from achieving fitness or life goals. Repetitive strain injuries can also discourage us from exercising altogether. I believe in helping my clients untie these uncomfortable knots, sometimes calling on other bodyworkers or medical practitioners for additional support.

These are some of the many reasons why Pilates is becoming more and more popular every year, both among celebrities and people from all ages and walks of life. By including Pilates as part of your self-care routine, you too are sure to become addicted to its numerous physical and mental benefits. I hope I have inspired you to make a life-changing move and give Pilates a try.

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