Depending on your needs, Pilates might be an excellent choice of exercise. But it can’t, as people sometimes believe nowadays, do everything – no form of exercise can.
Here are the major things Pilates cannot do:
- Pilates does not challenge your heart and lungs much or burn many calories. A study of the fitness benefits of Pilates mat classes by the American Council on Exercise showed that the cardiovascular benefits and calorie-burning potential of the exercise was equivalent at best to a walk at a moderate pace. That is enough physical activity to reduce your risk for major diseases of aging, including heart disease and diabetes, since these benefits come when you go from no exercise to very mild regular exercise. But it’s definitely not enough to make your heart and lungs particularly fit or to help you lose weight.
- Pilates does not help you get really strong. To build your strength, you need to work against resistance strong enough to challenge you. At first a Pilates workout may do that, but beyond a certain point you cannot find a continuing challenge.
- Pilates builds strength for simple movements in the front-to-back plane, and more strength on the front than on the back of your body. So if you are looking for an exercise system that will directly help you improve your ability to do movements that involve turning and twisting, or if you need more back strength, Pilates will not be the best choice.
- Pilates doesn’t build power (the ability to use strength quickly) or what we can generally call spring. This is because it involves smooth, flowing movements but lacks impact and quick or ballistic movements. Power and spring are key components of fitness, essential for balance and fall-prevention and especially important for many kinds of sports. You will need to turn to other forms of exercise to specifically build these things.
If you are an athlete, Pilates may help you or it may hinder you. The current vogue of “core strengthening” in athletics needs to be applied in sports specific ways, so most Pilates is too generic to be of use. Strengthening the deep core stabilizers is a help in athletes who have weakness there, but the buzzword “core stability” is too often mistaken to mean “core held still,” which interferes with athletic performance – and with coordination for every kind of person. And it is important to remember that Pilates was developed by a gymnast in collaboration with dancers. It cultivates movement patterns that are appropriate to dance but not necessarily to sports.
- If you have aches and pains it is important to understand that Pilates does not solve all problems. If you have severely compromised movement patterns due to pain, or need to make significant changes in posture, coordination, or athletic form and technique, then exercise of any kind – even Pilates will not do the job.