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Pilates: how does it work and how often should you do it?

Interest in Pilates has increased significantly in the UK over the last five years, with more and more people taking part in classes or trying Pilates at home. But what are its main benefits and how many times a week you should do this popular form of exercise?

In this article, we take a closer look at this holistic, mat-based workout that’s taken the world by storm.

What is Pilates?

Pilates focuses on flexibility, balance, core strength and controlled breathing. With an emphasis on quality over quantity, movements are precise and intentional, making it an effective, low impact form of exercise suitable for people of all fitness levels.

Is Pilates a good form of exercise?

There’s a reason why Pilates is so popular.  Not only is it a fun and versatile workout that’s suitable for all, it’s also great for our physical and mental wellbeing, boosting core strength, flexibility, coordination and balance. Pilates can improve posture, relieve back pain and promote mindfulness, thanks to the focused breathing and concentration required.

Is Pilates for everyone?

Pilates is incredibly inclusive and is suitable for a broad spectrum of ages and abilities, including children, older adults, beginners, pregnant women and people recovering from injuries.

How to do Pilates

The great thing about Pilates is it can be tailored to suit the individual or class. There is, however, a general standardised approach to Pilates:  

  1. Start off with deep, controlled breathing. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, engaging your core muscles as you breathe.
  2. Throughout the workout, focus on engaging your core muscles (abdominals, back and pelvic floor). This will help you maintain good balance and alignment.
  3. Begin with some gentle warm-up exercises, including spine rolls, plus arm and leg circles.
  4. Include a range of moves in your workout, such as the following:
  • The Hundred – engages the core through sustained arm pumping and rhythmic breathing while lying with your back flat on the ground and your legs raised.
  • The Roll Up - strengthens abdominals and enhances spinal flexibility by rolling up and down from a flat-back position.
  • The Mermaid with a Twist - stretches sides and improves spinal rotation, sitting with legs folded and twisting towards bent knees.
  1. Finish your Pilates session with cool-down exercises and stretches to help your muscles recover and improve flexibility.

How often should I do Pilates as a beginner?

If you’re new to Pilates, consider doing one to three workouts per week for at least 20 minutes, and gradually progress to a maximum of 60 minutes per session. You won’t see results immediately, but with regular workouts, you can typically start to see improvements within six to eight weeks.

How often should I do Pilates to lose weight?

If losing weight is your main goal, Pilates provides an excellent total-body workout that can burn calories and contribute to weight loss. For the best results, aim to do Pilates consistently two to four times per week for up to an hour and combine it with a calorie-controlled diet.

Can I do Pilates at home?

Pilates is an exercise that can be done at home or in a class setting, requiring minimal space and equipment. All you need is a mat and a quiet environment so you can focus, plus either an instructional video or guide showing you how to do the moves. As you progress, you can consider adding resistance bands, standalone cables for your arms or tools such as Pilates rings for an extra challenge, but they’re not essential for a good Pilates workout.

Where can I find Pilates classes near me?

Keen to try Pilates but not sure how to get started? Why not use our LiveWell Finder tool to locate local Pilates classes in your area. If you are looking to get more active in general, register with LiveWell Dorset today and receive personalised advice from our team of LiveWell coaches. You can also find lots of great articles, tools and resources on the Get Active section of our website. Contact us today to find out more!

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