I did 15 minutes of Pilates every day - and loved it so much, it's the only workout I'll be doing this summer

Diary packed with plans? Try this game-changing fitness challenge.

Liz trying 15 minutes of Pilates every day
(Image credit: Liz Connor)

If you’re anything like me, your will to exercise goes from moderate - even enthusiastic - to practically non-existent during the summer months. Just lately, I’ve been sacking off the gym in favour of long weekends out of the city, picnics in the park and a fair few hungover lie-ins, too. I even cancelled my monthly ClassPass membership in a fit of rage after watching my untouched credits woefully go to waste yet again. This is unusual by my standards. Yet, I seemingly can’t bring myself to workout when sitting in a sunny pub garden with an Aperol Spritz becomes an option.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break from exercise, I can definitely sense that my chronic lack of activity is messing with my sleep, energy levels and mental health. So when I heard that 15-minute Pilates classes were trending on TikTok, my curiosity was naturally piqued. If getting to a studio for a 45-minute strength class isn’t likely to happen, rolling out my mat at home might just be the next best thing.

Keen to see if the online buzz checks out, I decided to take on a two-week challenge. Yep, 14 days of 15-minute lunch break Pilates. While I've done a fair bit of Pilates in my time, I made sure to include some Pilates exercises for beginners to ease myself in and truly reap the benefits of Pilates.

Scroll on to see how I got on with my daily Pilates workouts and don't miss our guides to the best Pilates exercises, the best 20 minutes Pilates workouts, and TikTok's trending wall Pilates workout, while you're at it. Want to buy me kit for at home? Best Pilates bars and Team MC UK's top picks of the best Pilates kit, at the ready.

I tried a 15-minute daily Pilates challenge - and here's why I loved it

What is Pilates?

If you’re a regular on TikTok, you probably already know that Pilates is all about slow and controlled movements and that it’s supposedly amazing for building core strength.

But did you know that the multi-billion dollar method wasn’t created in a Hollywood fitness studio, but actually dates all the way back to World War One? Legend has it that German inventor Joseph Pilates came up with the genius idea while helping injured soldiers to rehab in hospital.

Calling his method "contrology", he experimented with a series of exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles, defined by six key principles: concentration, control, centre, flow, precision and breathing.

Today, the method uses a combo of around 50 simple, repetitive exercises - either practised on a mat or equipment like a reformer - to strengthen the body while improving posture, balance and flexibility.

Why did I choose to try 15 minutes of Pilates every day?

Confession time. I used to think Pilates had to be done at length to be effective (think 45-minute sessions in an expensive central London studio). But, I was wrong.

According to the #pilatesprincess community on TikTok, just 15 minutes at home per day, is all you need to strengthen, lengthen and feel more energised. Many users rave about YouTube instructor Move with Nicole’s express Pilates classes which are free to access on the platform.

With little rest between each set of movements, fans of the method claim that this length of time allows you to feel the full-body toning effects of Pilates in a super speedy format.

@tashafranken

♬ Collide (more sped up) - Justine Skye

Benefits of 15 minute Pilates workouts

From honing a rock-solid core to improving your posture, there are loads of benefits that you shouldn’t sleep on.

One 2016 study found that just 16 sessions of Pilates resulted in a positive impact on postural alignment in healthy adults. Another published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine pointed towards the method’s ability to prevent injury, suggesting that cross-training with Pilates could help prevent common hamstring injuries in elite footballers.

“Pilates strengthens all muscles in the body, making them equally capable, reducing muscle imbalances which can put you at higher risk of injury,” says Hollie Grant, founder of Pilates PT. “I like to think of it as making your body work better, feel more comfortable and improve your performance in other areas of fitness.”

While you’re sure to notice subtle changes to your body, lots of people talk about Pilates being so much more than a keep-fit method. It’s gained respect online as an empowering mind-body practice that helps you to feel grounded and energised in your own skin.

“Pilates moves us away from a diet culture mentality to exercise and allows us to think about how our bodies function, rather than look,” agrees Grant.

“It encourages you to listen to your body, learn about your anatomy and build strength over time. This is completely removed from the traditional fitness industry message of focussing on weight or dress size."

I did 15 minutes of Pilates every day - the results

Week one

I decided to kick off the challenge with a signature Move With Nicole full-body express workout on YouTube. Despite its low-impact and equipment-free format, I mistakenly believed it would be a breeze. Spoiler alert: I was sorely mistaken.

The session began with a minute of full-body stretches, quickly escalating into gruelling heel raises while holding a squat. Nicole then guided me through a sequence of donkey kicks and rainbow leg lifts, rigorously testing my lower body strength and balance to the max.

Pilates puts a big focus on core strength, so I was surprised to find that just five minutes of bicycle kicks and single leg crunches was enough to bring-on the tell-tale shakes. By the end of the workout, I’d broken a sweat and felt fatigued, but not to the point of collapse. In fact, I felt really invigorated.

Working from home most days in the week, I soon realised that fitting in a quick mat workout between Zoom calls was far more doable than dedicating hours to schlepping back and forth to a studio. Sometimes, I started my day with a workout before making coffee. Or, on busier mornings, I slotted it in whenever I found a pocket of free time, even as late as 9 PM.

15 minutes of Pilates daily

Liz trying her Pilates challenge at home

(Image credit: Liz Connor)

Week two

The second week of my Pilates challenge was a bit of a game changer. Once I’d nailed the correct form, I managed to tap into the breathing prompts from instructor Nicole.

Miraculously, the exercises felt way less spicy when I committed to taking long, deep breaths in sync with my movements, rather than tensing up my body. And whether it was a placebo effect or not, I already felt stronger in my core.

This week was packed with social events, including a friend's birthday drinks and a boozy work gathering. Normally, I would skip exercise altogether and then feel guilty about it later. However, I found it almost impossible to skip my 15-minute classes, as they barely took any time out of my day.

Sure, the workouts remained challenging, but knowing they would be over quickly left me with no excuse to neglect my gym kit. I even completed one class while waiting for my dinner to cook in the oven, making use of otherwise dead time.

15 minute Pilates challenge: the verdict

I'm genuinely so impressed by how effective my micro Pilates challenge turned out to be. I didn't just maintain my fitness during a hectic period; I actually feel stronger and more flexible than before.

The best thing about this challenge is definitely its flexibility. During busy times, exercise often feels like an added stress. Even if I manage to get to the gym, I can't fully relax because my mind is racing with everything else I need to do.

With the time-suck of long gym commutes removed, I began to look actually forward to my 15-minute sessions, treating them like a refreshing breather between intense writing deadlines. The short, sharp workouts left me feeling highly productive and ready to tackle the rest of the day with a clearer head and more energy.

If you're currently looking at your packed Google Calendar and feeling slightly overwhelmed with everything you have planned, I highly recommend giving 15-minute Pilates classes a try.

Take it from me, it's an excellent way to maintain your fitness while allowing you plenty of time to make core summer memories with pals.

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Liz Connor
Freelance Health Writer

Liz started her journalism career reporting on fashion at ELLE, GQ and Fashion Beans before finding a love for all things fitness and travel.

Keen to report on her favourite topics, she moved over to the lifestyle desk at The Evening Standard before taking the reins as health and wellbeing editor at news and features agency PA Media. She has also been a senior commissioning editor for the publisher Penguin Random House, finding future bestsellers in the self-development field.

Liz’s features have taken her from fashion front rows to the furthest reaches of the planet, via several hundred sweaty basement gyms in London. Her favourite aspect of her job is getting to write about new trends, whether it’s an under-the-radar travel destination or a TikTok-inspired workout method.

Since going freelance, Liz has written for titles including The Independent, National Geographic Traveller, Stylist, Prospect, Yahoo, and MSN. When she's not writing on her laptop, you'll probably find her at a gig, eating at a new restaurant, or listening to Taylor Swift.