Pilates has undoubtedly taken off over the last decade, swiftly shifting from private lessons in exclusive boutique studios to group classes in big box gyms.
While it may look easy, if you’ve ever dipped your toes into the world of Pilates and tried a Reformer class, you’ll know it definitely feels damn difficult, so it must be good for weight loss, right?
The multiple health benefits of Pilates
Pilates is not just for burning those calories, it also offers a wide array of positive health and wellness benefits. From firing up your core muscles and building strength to improved posture and breathing, as well as greater mobility, flexibility and joint stability. From a mental point of view, Pilates promotes mindfulness and body awareness.
Which type of Pilates is best for weight loss?
Feeling overwhelmed just trying to pick which class to try out? The good news is, regardless of which style you go with, all Pilates is great for whole-body strengthening and overall fitness. Weight loss involves a ton of other factors, like sleep, lifestyle, and eating and exercise habits, so Pilates, regardless of how great it feels, isn’t a cure-all. Pilates will, however, deliver far more benefits than just a lower number on a scale.
To help you get your head around which might suit you best, we’ve broken down the main types and why the differences matter below.
The Mat work came before any of the Pilates equipment was developed. Mat Pilates is perfect for beginners because you only need your own body, a mat, and some floor space to start. Of course, you can still add a few other essentials to your gym bag if you want.
There are over 500 exercises that can be performed and modified for any age or ability. Mat Pilates is based on the original Pilates exercises, focusing on training the core muscles whilst strengthening your whole body. A Mat class is a great way to start your Pilates journey as it involves no machines to learn, yet still offers a great total body burn.
The Pilates Reformer is an amazingly unique piece of equipment, utilised in many different exercise sequences. Many of the reformer exercises are the same Pilates mat exercises, simply performed on the machine to either make the exercise more intense by increasing resistance or make it easier by assisting with tension. This is the advantage of the Reformer, anything can be progressed or regressed according to your strength and ability.
Classical Pilates follows (as closely as possible) Joseph Pilate’s original work. Which translates to performing his original structured exercises in his desired order. Whilst there might be slight variations in the syllabus due to different sources and teachers, however, an important feature of all Classical Pilates training is the focus on the position of the pelvis. Classical Pilates will generally teach abdominal exercises in a posterior tilt position, which simply means when you’re performing the mat work, you create a tuck in the pelvis.
Contemporary Pilates is still based on the work of Mr Pilates but has been updated by adjusting the exercises to fit with current biomechanics research. Whilst many exercises remain unchanged, a whole new series of exercises have been added, plus new variations allowing for injury rehabilitation. Contemporary Pilates will generally teach exercises with a neutral pelvis, which means when you’re performing the exercises, your spine stays in its natural position, not tilted back or tucked forward.
Clinical Pilates is generally run by a qualified physiotherapist or exercise physiologist, who has undertaken tertiary education, has substantial qualifications and has extensive experience with the human body. They specialise in injury management, healing and prevention.
Before participating in a class, you will be thoroughly assessed to ensure that all your exercises are tailored to your specific needs and abilities. This is particularly important for anyone recovering from injuries, to ensure no further damage is done, as certain exercises may be inappropriate for your condition. Throughout a Clinical Pilates class, the Instructor will continually monitor your technique and make adjustments where necessary to keep you safe.
Can you lose weight and get in shape by doing Pilates?
Pilates is a total full-body workout, regardless of the style of class you attend. This puts your body through its paces, delivering a highly efficient environment for burning calories, as well as building foundational strength and improving overall muscle tone.
Another benefit is Pilates is a relatively low-impact workout, which can be great for people recovering from an injury from higher-impact sports like running, cycling or weight lifting. We’re big advocates of the ‘any movement is good movement’ mindset, so give Pilates a try if you’re currently missing out on your favourite training due to pain.
Does Pilates help reduce belly fat?
While you’ll certainly burn calories, losing belly fat from Pilates is a myth. You can’t spot reduce fat anywhere on your body, regardless of the exercise. Think of your stored fat like a swimming pool. If you scoop some water out of one corner, the whole water level of the pool goes down equally, rather than the specific area you tried to remove water from. So even if you do hundreds of sit-ups, your body won’t use the stored fat around your torso specifically, genetics dictate the rate at which and the area that you lose weight from.
If weight loss is your goal, increasing any kind of exercise is important, as this is how we increase the amount of energy we burn during the day (output). Similarly, with our diet, we can tailor the amount of energy we consume (input). Diet and exercise are both effective in isolation, but most effective when combined.
Weight loss only occurs when we burn more than we intake (output is greater than input). The body then draws on its stored energy and mobilises fat to be used as the extra energy it needs. This is why we recommend finding exercises that you enjoy doing (whether that’s Pilates, running marathons or lifting weights) and doing them consistently, in conjunction with a balanced diet.
Embracing movement you enjoy, often.
Whilst a 30-day fitness challenge might seem appealing, especially at this time of the year, we strongly advise you to instead adopt small changes in your current habits that will lead you to create a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
Undeniably, practising Pilates regularly helps build a strong, fit and balanced body. Here at Crunch, we endorse Pilates as a great form of exercise with a multitude of health benefits, one of which can be assisting in weight loss.
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