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Can I lose weight and get lean doing Pilates?

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Weight loss tends not to be the main goal of Pilates for many when engaging in the practice, but it is an added perk. As with any exercise routine, anytime you are up and moving you will burn calories.

Pilates is known for its ability to sculpt, tone, increase flexibility and bring awareness to the breath, but it will also get your heart rate up enough to burn some calories. Pilates moves at a fast pace, raising your heart rate and keeping it up as the pace continues throughout the class.

Calorie burning during a Pilates Class
In a typical Pilates class, a student will burn between 200-450 calories. The amount of calories burned depends on a few different factors, mainly how much you weigh, your body type and how much effort you exert. According to SELF.com, the calorie burn for a 145 lb. person doing Pilates for one hour:

Beginner level Pilates 241 cal.
Intermediate level Pilates 338 cal.
Advanced level Pilates 421 cal.

Students who weigh less than 145 pounds will likely burn less, and those who weigh more, will likely burn more. But, of course, with more effort and energy expended, one will burn more calories than a student who is moving at a slower, more relaxed pace. So, if you want to maximize your calorie burn, pick up the pace and push yourself just a little bit harder and a little bit further.

Adding weights, a ball, a band or a ring to certain movements can also boost your effort and your calorie burn. Furthermore, doing a cardio routine right before class will boost your calorie burn by raising your heart rate, thus making it easier to maintain that level during class and adding to the calorie burn during class.

Calorie burning outside of Pilates class
Besides the calorie burn you get during class, Pilates can also increase your calorie burning outside of class. That increase is achieved in the following ways:

  1. Builds lean muscle mass. When muscle mass is increased, the muscles burn more calories. Muscles require energy for fuel, so more calories are expended when maintaining muscles as opposed to maintaining fat. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) will increase due to the increase in energy expenditure to the muscles, so even at rest, you are burning more calories with a higher lean muscle mass than a lower one.Increases energy.
  2. Participating regularly in a Pilates program will increase your energy. The more energy you have, typically the more active you are. The more active you are, the more calories you burn.
  3. Teaches you to breathe properly. As you learn to breathe correctly with each movement in Pilates class, your body becomes more efficient at burning calories. Moving properly with the breath is a big component in a Pilates class.

Achieving a leaner appearance
Besides the actual calorie burning, there are other benefits that will lend to a leaner appearance when using Pilates for weight loss and leaning up.

  1. Pilates exercises create a leaner look. Because of the stretching involved and the attention on moving precisely and properly, your muscles will become lean, long and strong, as opposed to big and bulky. The appearance of the longer, leaner muscles will make your body appear leaner overall.
  2. Improves posture. Your posture will improve by strengthening the core muscles. Body movements are all powered by the core. Pilates focuses on total body alignment by balancing the strength in all of the muscles that keep you standing tall. The torso and the back work with one another to support our spine in any and all of its movements. Pilates helps you regain and maintain what has become known as your “neutral spine,” (the S shape). Along with strengthening your abdominal muscles, Pilates exercises strengthen and elongate the deep muscles of the back to support your spine during any movement. When the torso and the back are both strong, this optimal relationship helps you to stand taller, straighter and stronger, thus giving you a leaner appearance.
  3. Pilates will flatten your abdominal muscles. “Pilates teaches people how to use their abdominals correctly—how to contract the abdominal wall rather than let it distend. This simple mechanism can be used 24/7 in your daily life. That is the single reason that Pilates flattens abs so quickly,” says Alycea Ungaro, owner of Real Pilates NYC. During class, the focus is on using and strengthening the core, even as you are working other areas of the body, so the abdominals do a lot of training throughout the entire class.

Weight Loss
Pilates does burn calories. You will see some improvement with a consistent Pilates routine as far as weight loss and losing fat, but it is not the same kind of burn you get with a consistent cardiovascular routine.

For the most optimal results for weight loss and leaning up add in some regular cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, treadmill and elliptical machine are some common forms) along with your Pilates classes for a well-rounded strengthening and cardiovascular workout.

If you are consistent, the results you see with Pilates can motivate you to continue the practice. Once you feel good and start seeing results, you will be motivated to maintain that feeling or appearance, and even improve upon it with continued practice. More practice leads to improved muscle tone, posture and energy and can be of great benefit to achieving the body you want.

For more information on Pilates for weight loss, visit:

http://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesandweightloss/a/The-Calories-And-Pilates-Equation.htm
http://life.gaiam.com/article/how-pilates-can-help-you-lose-weight

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