Is Pilates actually good for you?

If there were a fitness trends chart akin to our music charts, we’d probably find Pilates comfortably reigning at the top for at least the thirteenth consecutive week. This trending workout made a splash in PureGym’s top 20 fitness trends for 2024, securing multiple spots (wall Pilates clinching the top position, with mat Pilates at 14th, and reformer Pilates at 19th).

Currently, there’s a whopping 660k videos under the #Pilates hashtag on TikTok, showing our collective obsession with it. But amidst its popularity, the question lingers: Is Pilates truly beneficial for you?

Of course, with fitness, what’s good or bad is subjective. What invigorates one person might pose risks to another. Nonetheless, with Pilates dominating conversations in the wellness realm (seriously, when was the last time you scrolled through social media without spotting a chic Pilates devotee working out at their studio?), it’s crucial to examine its merits closely.

So, we’ve tapped into the insights of experts to answer candidly: Is Pilates genuinely good for you? Whether you’re drawn to using a Pilates sculpt bar to enjoy its numerous benefits or prefer a mat-based, equipment-free routine, there’s something in it for everyone. 

Is Pilates good for you? We asked top experts

What are the perks of regular pilates practice?

The popularity of Pilates isn’t just about its aesthetically pleasing studios. According to Ionie Brown, a reformer Pilates instructor, this exercise fosters overall well-being by enhancing physical strength, flexibility, posture, and body awareness, consequently reducing injury risks. “It’s excellent for mental well-being, relaxation, stress management, and injury prevention,” she affirms.

While people believe that the advantages of Pilates are extensive, Brown highlights three core benefits of regular practice.

  1. Enhanced core strength

“Pilates concentrates on fortifying core muscles, including deep abdominal muscles, pelvic floor, and back muscles,” explains Brown. Why is a robust core crucial? It serves as the body’s centre, offering stability and support for the spine, thereby improving posture and balance, and facilitating everyday movements. “This can mitigate injury risks, alleviate pain, and enhance activities like running or weightlifting,” Brown emphasises.

  1. Improved flexibility and mobility

Pilates incorporates dynamic stretching and controlled movements to enhance flexibility throughout the body. “Increased flexibility can enhance joint mobility, reduce muscle tension, and expand the range of motion, resulting in smoother movements and reduced stiffness,” notes Brown.

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  1. Enhanced mental well-being

In Pilates, there’s a significant emphasis on the mind-body connection, says Brown. It encourages mindful movements and conscious breathing. 

“By focusing on precise and controlled movements, it helps develop better body awareness, concentration, and mindfulness during exercise,” she states. “This heightened awareness can lead to improved mental clarity, stress reduction, and relaxation, promoting overall mental well-being.”

So, is Pilates good for you?

As previously mentioned, the efficacy of exercise is subjective. However, substantial evidence suggests that Pilates might be a valuable addition to many fitness regimens. What does the research indicate?

Studies published in the Muscle, Ligaments, and Tendons journal corroborate Brown’s list of benefits, indicating that Pilates could enhance flexibility, abdominal and lumbopelvic stability, and muscular activity. Moreover, research published in Heliyon suggests that Pilates could aid in increasing muscle strength and improving balance compared to no activity. Encouraging findings, aren’t they?

But that’s not all. Research from the University of Limerick suggests that Pilates could also enhance mental health outcomes.

Overall, it seems that there are numerous advantages to squeezing in a Pilates session now and then.

“Another advantage of Pilates is its adaptability,” notes Joanna Meyer, Personal Trainer and Director of Nordic Balance. “It can be tailored for individuals at various fitness levels or with different health conditions, making it a versatile option for many.” Furthermore, it’s an exercise that you can engage in from virtually anywhere. If attending a class isn’t feasible (or you’re unwilling to invest in one, which is understandable), you can roll out your mat at home. “This allows you to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, regardless of your schedule or access to a gym,” Meyer adds.

Lastly, Pilates is a low-impact form of movement, which means it’s gentle on the joints.

Is Pilates safe for everyone?

If you’re injured or have a chronic condition, engaging in Pilates without personalized guidance from an instructor may not be advisable. Similarly, if you’re pregnant, it’s wise to consult your doctor or midwife before joining a class. Nonetheless, Pilates is suitable for individuals of all ages and experience levels.

“If an individual experiences chronic pain or illness, it doesn’t mean they should avoid Pilates altogether, but they should seek guidance from a trained professional in a one-on-one setting,” advises Brown. “The instructor can offer exercises tailored to the individual and their specific needs.”

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Can Pilates serve as your sole exercise?

Whether Pilates should be your primary activity depends on your personal circumstances, goals, and preferences. “In my opinion, solely practising Pilates isn’t necessarily detrimental as it offers numerous benefits,” suggests Brown. “Many individuals notice significant physical and mental improvements solely from doing Pilates. Additionally, using a Reformer can provide resistance, thereby building strength, and there are numerous exercises to elevate your heart rate.”

The NHS recommends a minimum of two strength training sessions per week, and Pilates certainly qualifies. However, if your goal is to build muscle and strength specifically, weightlifting is the most effective route to achieve it—so you might want to incorporate that as well.

Moreover, moderate to vigorous cardio is crucial for heart health and overall well-being, so it’s essential to engage in activities that elevate your heart rate. “In Pilates, we focus on lateral breathing, so regular Pilates practitioners may notice improved circulation and breathing efficiency. However, it may not provide sufficient stimulation for cardiovascular conditioning and heart health on its own,” Brown explains.

Activities that raise your heart rate and challenge your cardiovascular system are vital for maintaining heart health, reducing the risk of heart disease, and enhancing endurance.

Lastly, Brown underscores the importance of regular walking for overall well-being. She suggests aiming for 10,000 steps per day or as many as you can feasibly manage.

Ultimately, achieving a balance of strength and cardio training, along with a substantial daily step count, sets you on the path to success—regardless of your specific exercise preferences.

So, should you try Pilates?

Pilates is a versatile and beneficial form of exercise that offers a multitude of physical and mental advantages. While it may not be suitable for everyone, you can tailor it to accommodate various fitness levels and health conditions. Incorporating Pilates into your fitness routine, alongside other forms of exercise, can contribute to improved strength, flexibility, mental well-being, and overall health. So, whether you’re a seasoned Pilates enthusiast or considering trying it for the first time, there’s much to gain from this holistic workout regimen.

This article was syndicated from Marie Claire UK
Translated and adapted by Praise Vandeh, Marie Claire Nigeria Content Writer


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