It's without doubt the most popular workout right now - but is Pilates actually good for you?

Is Pilates good for you? Women during a Pilates class
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Were there a music charts equivalent for fitness trends, we’d bet that Pilates workouts would be into their thirteenth (at least) consecutive week at number one. The trending exercise ranked in PureGym’s top 20 fitness trends for 2024 three times (wall Pilates nabbed the top spot, with mat Pilates in 14th place and reformer Pilates in 19th) and, at the time of writing, there are no less than 660k videos under the #Pilates hashtag on TikTok. Evidently, we’re a nation obsessed. But, for all its popularity, is Pilates good for you?

Obviously, what is and isn’t good for you – where fitness is concerned – is completely subjective. What makes one person feel powerful and energised may pose a serious injury risk to someone else. However, with it dominating so much discussion in the wellness sphere (when was the last time you scrolled your social apps without stumbling upon an aesthetic snap of a Pilates girlie getting her reps in at her local studio?), it’s important to double-check its credentials.

So, we enlisted the expertise of a couple of pros to tell us truthfully: is Pilates really good for you? Whether you plan to use a Pilates sculpt bar to reap the many benefits of Pilates or prefer a mat-based, equipment-free session, there's something for everyone. Don't miss our guides to Pilates for beginners and an expert's pick of the best 20-minute Pilates workouts and best 30-minute Pilates workouts, while you're here.

Is Pilates good for you? We asked top experts

What are the benefits of doing Pilates regularly?

There’s a reason Pilates is so popular right now – and it’s not just due to the photogenic studios. According to reformer Pilates instructor Ionie Brown, the exercise promotes all-round wellbeing by improving physical strength, flexibility, posture, and body awareness, reducing your risk of injuries. “It’s great for mental wellbeing, relaxation, and stress management, and reducing the risk of injuries,” she says.

While the benefits of doing Pilates are thought to be wide-ranging, Brown says there are three core pros to regularly doing the exercise.

1. It boosts core strength

“Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles, including the deep abdominal muscles, pelvic floor, as well as back muscles,” Brown says. Why is a strong core so important? As the centre of the body, it provides stability and support for the spine, improving posture, balance, and aiding in general movement. “This can help reduce the risk of injuries and alleviate pain, enhancing daily activities and athletic performance such as running or weight lifting,” says Brown.

2. It improves flexibility and mobility

Pilates incorporates dynamic stretching and controlled movements that promote flexibility throughout the body. “Increased flexibility can improve joint mobility, reduce muscle tension, and enhance range of motion, leading to greater ease of movement and reduced stiffness,” says Brown.


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3. It boosts mental wellbeing

In Pilates, there’s a huge focus on the mind-body connection, Brown says. It encourages mindful movement and conscious breathing. “By focusing on precise and controlled movements, it helps develop greater body awareness, concentration, and mindfulness during exercise,” she says. “This heightened awareness can translate into improved mental clarity, stress reduction, and relaxation, promoting overall mental wellbeing.”

So... Is Pilates good for you?

As we’ve touched on already, what’s "good" for you in exercise terms is completely personal. But, that being said, there’s significant evidence to suggest that Pilates may be a welcome addition to many training schedules. So, what does the science say?

Research published in the Muscle, Ligaments and Tendons journal supports Brown’s list of benefits. It concludes that Pilates may help to improve flexibility, abdominal and lumbopelvic stability, and muscular activity. Elsewhere, a Heliyon study indicates that Pilates could be beneficial for increasing muscle strength and improving balance when compared to no activity. All looking good so far, no?

And it doesn’t end there. Research from the University of Limerick suggests that Pilates has the potential to improve mental health outcomes, too. 

All in all, it would appear there are many pros to squeezing in a Pilates session every so often. 

“Another advantage of Pilates is its adaptability, says Joanna Meyer, Personal Trainer and Director of Nordic Balance. “It can be customised for individuals at different fitness levels or with various health conditions, making it a versatile option for many.” It’s also an exercise that you can do from more or less anywhere. If you can’t make it to a class (or aren’t willing to fork out for one, which, fair enough) you can roll out your mat at home. “This means you can fit exercise into your day, no matter how busy you are or if you can't get to a gym,” says Meyer.

Finally, Pilates is a low-impact style of movement, meaning it’s gentle on the joints.


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Is Pilates safe for everyone?

If you’re injured or have a chronic condition, Pilates may not be advisable without 1-1 support from an instructor. Equally, if you’re pregnant, you’ll want to get the A-OK from your doctor or midwife before signing up to a class. That said, Pilates is suitable for all ages and experience levels.

“If an individual has chronic pain or illness, it doesn’t mean they should avoid Pilates all together, but they should be supervised by a trained professional in a 1-1 environment,” Brown says. “The instructor will be able to provide exercises that are tailored to the individual and their needs.”

Can Pilates be your only exercise?

Whether Pilates should be your sole activity or not really depends on your personal circumstances, goals and preferences. “In my opinion, only doing Pilates is not necessarily a bad thing as there are so many benefits that come from it,” says Brown. “Many people notice a huge difference physically and mentally from doing Pilates alone. A Reformer can also allow you to add resistance, therefore building strength, and there are many exercises to get your heart rate up.”

The NHS recommends a minimum of two strength training sessions per week, and while Pilates would absolutely count, if you goal is to build muscle and strength, specifically, weight lifting is the most efficient way to get there – so you’ll want to factor that in, too.

Additionally, moderate-vigorous cardio is hugely beneficial for heart – and all-round – health, so it’s important to engage in activities that get your heart rate up. “In Pilates we focus on lateral breathing, so regular Pilates-goers should notice improved circulation and breathing efficiency, however it may not provide a sufficient stimulus for cardiovascular conditioning and heart health on its own,” says Brown.

Activities that elevate heart rate and challenge the cardiovascular system, she elaborates, are important for maintaining cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart disease, and improving endurance. 

Finally, Brown emphasises the importance of walking regularly for whole-body wellbeing, too. She recommends aiming for 10,000 steps a day, or a many as you can realistically manage in a day

Ultimately, if you can strike a balance of strength and cardio training, and a decent daily step count, you’re onto a winner – whatever your specific exercise preferences.

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Abbi Henderson
Health Writer

Abbi Henderson is a freelance journalist and social media editor who covers health, fitness, women’s sport and lifestyle for titles including Women's Health and Stylist, among others. 

With a desire to help make healthcare, exercise and sport more accessible to women, she writes about everything from the realities of seeking medical support as a woman to those of being a female athlete fighting for equality. 

When she’s not working, she’s drinking tea, going on seaside walks, lifting weights, watching football, and probably cooking something pasta-based.