Pilates can help you stay strong, healthy, and happy - and it’s never too late to learn. But is pilates right for you? Whether you’re curious about or cautious of this popular way to exercise, we've got answers to everything you want to know:
What kind of workout is pilates?
Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise that combines deep breathing with gentle stretching to boost strength, balance, and mobility. Workouts target your "powerhouse" (your abs, lower back, pelvic floor, hips, and glutes), but you’ll hit other areas too.
Founder Joseph H. Pilates and his wife Clara developed it to help World War I soldiers restore their inner strength (both literally and figuratively), and millions of practitioners worldwide swear by its mind-body benefits to this day.
What's the difference between pilates and yoga?
Both modalities and their various styles involve syncing body with breath and deliver a nice, long stretch. Many classes fuse elements of each, but pilates and yoga are not one and the same.
“Traditionally, pilates is more active than yoga, which is why I was drawn to it,” says personal trainer Amy Kiser Schemper. “I think people view it as slow or just for meditation. They can be part of it, depending on your class, but I was surprised at how challenging it was for my body in a completely new way.”
To sum it up, in yoga you hold static poses; in pilates you keep a steady pace. Breathing techniques also differ, as may your post-workout glow. After yoga, you may want to slowly ease back into your day, whereas post-pilates you might feel full of energy.
Can you lose weight by doing pilates?
It’s not known for dramatically dropping numbers on the scale in a hurry like high-intensity interval workouts, but the short, repetitive movements get your heart pumping so you’ll definitely burn some calories.
Those tiny moves also engage muscles head to toe. You’ll strengthen, lengthen, and tone. The soreness you’ll feel the next day means your muscles are recovering - and your new routine is working.
And unlike running and other high-impact cardio that can put strain on your joints, pilates is performed close to the ground. You’ll be seated, balanced on your side, or laying on your back as you get in shape one stretch at a time.
What are the other benefits of pilates?
All that core conditioning can help you get flat abs and a sculpted waistline, but improved alignment, posture, range of motion, and all-over strength are the most common results.
Pilates exercises are often recommended to ease muscle tension, joint stiffness, and back pain, and to help prevent injury. If you have any of those issues, though, consult with your healthcare provider first.
The moves are easy to learn and modify, no matter your age or ability. You can pick up your pace, add light dumbbells, or deepen your stretches for a better burn. Need to adjust for injury? No problem. Pilates is adaptable by design.
The benefits even extend beyond your time on the machine or the mat, says Kiser Schemper.
“Knowing how to engage your core during everyday things like doing laundry, carrying groceries, or picking up kids is going to help you long-term,” she says. “You will get stronger. You’ll experience less difficulty as you age and lose muscle fibre. You’ll maintain mobility, flexibility, and keep moving.”
How do I get started with pilates?
It’s best to learn from a certified pilates instructor who will put you through the paces using the correct form, either one-on-one or in a group class.
You can try mat work or machines (a.k.a. "apparatuses" to purists). Your local gym might have a pilates Reformer (a platform with springs and straps attached to add resistance). For the full suite of pilates equipment, you’ll need to join a studio.
You can also get in an effective and convenient pilates workout at home. Just roll out a matt, kick off your shoes, and follow your instructor on screen.
Whatever route you take, navigating the world of pilates is neither tough nor tricky. It’s fun! Enjoy the journey.