Are you searching for a way to make your figure slimmer, burn fat and build more lean muscle mass?

Your mind may immediately go to more high-intensity workouts like weight lifting or running for the quickest way to drop pounds and get in shape, but there are other forms of exercise that you can try.

If you’re looking to start at a slower pace rather than jumping into an intensive cardio-based routine, consider adding Pilates sessions to your daily or weekly regimen!

While you may think of Pilates as a slower, more rehabilitative style of exercise or something exclusive to sports medicine, and yes, while it does help, the truth is that Pilates is simply a more mindful, focused form of lighter resistance training.

With proper nutrition and the help of a pilates instructor (or the internet!), it can be an excellent method for burning calories.

Can Pilates for weight loss actually work? Let’s talk about it!

What Is Pilates?

Pilates is a low-intensity workout focusing on toning and building lean muscles. It can be done at home, in the gym, and most often in various classes. It is not restrictive to specific body parts and can be done with or without equipment.

What is considered ‘classical pilates’ today was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century as a recovery method for dancers, though he soon realized that his exercise routine could benefit everyone, not just dancers and athletes.

This low-impact workout routine is meant to counteract the imbalance of muscles we overuse every day simply by walking, sitting, and standing, in the same way, day after day.

Woman using pilates machine; seen looking in the mirror, arms outstretched, knees bent in exercise form

To an onlooker who has never tried it, Pilates may seem easy. The small, concentrated movements are more deliberate and less challenging, right?


Think about being in the plank position or doing push-ups and how intense that arm/shoulder or core work can be. If you’re ready to burn calories, this might be your solution for weight loss.

Can Pilates Help You Lose Weight?

Practicing Pilates can be an excellent way to get or stay in shape, but if your goal is to lose weight exclusively by doing Pilates, you may want to rethink your plan. While it can help you with weight loss, your goal will be reached at a much slower pace than cardio-based exercises like swimming, cycling, or running.

According to, there have been several peer-reviewed studies on the effectiveness of Pilates workouts for weight loss. In 2017, a small study observed 37 women between the ages of 30 and 50 as compared to a similar control group doing no exercise and found that Pilates was effective for:

  • weight loss
  • lowering body mass index (BMI)
  • toning the waist
  • decreasing abdomen and hip circumference

However, it made no difference in lean body mass, which is body fat weight subtracted from total body weight.

Another study in 2015 of postmenopausal women ages 59-66 found that 12 weeks of Pilates increased abdominal, upper, and lower limb strength but had no effect on body composition change.

How Do Calories Affect Weight Loss?

It’s also important to understand the calories your body needs to take in and burn to lose weight. When trying to lose weight, one needs to be in a calorie deficit, meaning you lose more calories than you’re taking in.

This is when talking with your doctor, or a certified personal trainer can be helpful. You want to make sure that you’re nourishing your body and intaking the right amount of calories to maintain your health.

How Many Calories Does Pilates Burn?

To lose one pound, you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories. The key to weight loss is to consume fewer calories than you’re burning.

Pilates exercises can help, but they are not effective for major calorie burn, so in addition to these classes, you may consider additional exercise routines, including walking, running, or cycling.

This is also why it’s essential to consider your exercises and focus on the food you’re eating. Consuming a healthy diet like lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help you reach your weight loss goals.

So, How Much Weight Can You Lose By Doing Pilates?

The amount of calories you burn from any pilates exercises depends on your current weight, the type of pilates class (mat versus reformer classes), and the difficulty level of the class.

For someone about 150 pounds, one 50-minute pilates mat class at a beginner’s level burns approximately 175 calories, while an advanced 50-minute class burns around 250.

Side profile of woman with right bent leg, left leg outstretched and feet pointed, using the reformer

What Type Of Pilates Is Best For Weight Loss?

You’ll burn more calories in any exercise that increases your heart rate, including reformer classes. That is, Pilates done on the machine pictured above, basically a large sliding platform.

Many people choose to do Pilates because it helps with fat loss, but it’s important to understand the difference between ‘fat loss’ and ‘weight loss.’ Whether you’re burning calories on a mat versus calories on the reformer, the truth is that neither form of Pilates is superior to the other exercises. What really matters is the intensity of the workout.

With Pilates as a whole, you build more lean muscle mass, which can, in fact, increase your overall weight as muscle tends to be denser than fat. The difference is that while the number on the scale may increase, your waist size will decrease, and your spine will be elongated.

Losing fat may have originally been your goal, but with the host of other benefits to women’s health that these classes offer, you’ll want to keep coming back for more.

How Often Should You Practice Pilates?

If you’re new to Pilates and interested in trying, we recommend practicing 2-3 times a week. You’ll burn more calories with a full-body class than in a traditional mat class.

How Does Pilates Change Your Body Shape?

Another way that Pilates classes can help with weight loss is the way it affects your metabolic rate. Maybe your goals for weight loss are focused more on the redistribution of weight rather than loss itself. 

The building of lean muscle mass will not help you lose weight, but WILL help your body fat percentage change. Don’t get discouraged by the number on the scale, especially when you feel like you’re burning as many calories as you can and may not be seeing a numerical difference.

What’s most important is how you feel, and despite that number, we know if you stay consistent with your workouts, you’ll notice a difference in the shape of your body and how you feel.

When you first start your workout, stand upright and take a photo in front of a mirror. Track your progress and take photos in the same initial position as you go. Over time, you’ll notice more muscles are toned, your waist will be slimmer, and over time major calories will be burned.

What is the ‘Pilates Effect?’

The Pilates Effect, or as we like to call it, the ‘secret sauce’ that makes Pilates unlike any other style of workout, is this: a complete transformation to better posture. When you complete a Pilates workout, you’ll come away having worked more muscle groups than you thought you had. Not only will you stand tall after one of these classes, but you’ll also build muscle and have more energy.

You’ll start to look and genuinely feel great too! To summarize, there are a whole host of benefits to trying Pilates.

Woman with front leg bent, back leg kneeling into a squat; working out in the comfort of her home

So, Is Pilates Good for Weight Loss? Here Are Some Important Takeaways

Pilates can be an excellent way to improve the mind-body connection. Pilates can be beneficial in toning muscles and building core strength, but they can also help improve posture.

Studies show that Pilates helps recover from back pain and other injuries by strengthening the affected area. The best part is, you don’t have to take a class or go to the gym. You can practice Pilates right at home!

Adding Pilates to your weekly workout routines can surely help if you’re trying to lose weight.

Don’t forget: always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine for the best results.