Can Pilates Be the Only Exercise You Do?

As more and more practitioners happily reap the (mental and physical) benefits of a well-thought-out Pilates regime, the exercise is gaining more traction and popularity than ever.

Interestingly enough, Joseph Pilates, the developer of the practice, created it as an aid to help dancers through injury rather than an exercise regime; however, its muscle-conditioning and heart-strengthening effects soon became obvious – but can Pilates be the only exercise you do?

Pilates can be the only exercise you do. Since the practice combines strength training and cardio, you won’t be missing out on any key components of keeping your body in great shape. However, to get the most out of your workouts, make sure to keep them varied.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about using Pilates as your only form of exercise. I’ll first go through some of the effects that the practice has on your body that make it a well-rounded tool to aid your physical and mental health.

Then, I’ll go over some of the exercises that make an excellent addition to a Pilates workout, so without further ado, let’s get started!

How Pilates Affects Your Body

Upon reading the previous paragraphs, you might’ve found yourself wondering: “How can Pilates single-handedly allow you to maintain an optimal physical condition?”. After all, it’s hard to find any other workout regimes about which you could say the same.

However, the uniqueness of Pilates lies in the fact that it is a perfect combination between strength training and cardio, allowing you to condition your muscles (to a degree) while still maintaining excellent heart health.

Before I get into how Pilates affects your body, I want you to notice my use of “to a degree” here. While Pilates is an excellent tool to use by itself to optimize your mental and physical health, there are still plenty of people for whom this wouldn’t be enough.

For example, if you have specific performance or aesthetic goals, Pilates alone likely wouldn’t be able to help you achieve those. In that case, the answer to the question posed in the title would be “no.”

However, from a generalized perspective focusing on whether Pilates would suffice to meet your basic health requirements, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Let me tell you why.

First, Pilates is a form of strength training, as it relies on working with resistance, which is ultimately what allows you to build muscle mass, strength, and endurance.

The practice especially helps you strengthen your core, which is the basis of good posture and the ability to stay physical throughout your day.

Moreover, several studies such as this have found that Pilates can be beneficial to both your heart and lungs. As you can see, it’s safe to say that you can consider the practice a form of cardio as well.

And while those with specific performance or aesthetic goals might need to curate a program that can better support their needs, for the general population, the combination of resistance training and cardio that Pilates alone can provide is more than enough to help them maintain their physical and mental health.

Benefits of Pilates

You now know that Pilates is good for your muscles, heart, lungs, and overall health. However, what specific benefits can you expect from a well-thought-out (and consistent) Pilates routine?

  • You don’t need previous knowledge or experience. Everyone, from amateurs to athletes, can enjoy a good Pilates session. Each exercise can be tweaked and modified to fit your physical abilities, so you’ll never feel too out of your element when doing a class.
  • It is a modifiable workout regime that will never leave you bored. The beauty of Pilates is that you can make it whatever you want it to be. You can make the exercises easier or more challenging based on your fitness level. Do you want to target a specific muscle group? You got it. Do you want to regulate your breathing pattern? You can start today. If you’re someone who craves variety, Pilates will never leave you bored.
  • Pilates makes you more flexible. As you consistently try Pilates’ challenging positions, you’ll be able to increase your joints’ range of motion and become more flexible.
  • Pilates helps you develop a stronger core. There’s no workout regime that hits your core quite like Pilates. The muscles in your abdomen, back, and pelvic floor are essential to maintaining mobility and good posture.
  • Pilates helps with your mental health just as much as with your physical health. Every modern definition of health accents the importance of your mental and social well-being. While most workout routines only focus on the physical side of health, Pilates allows you to become more mindful and better connect your body to your soul.

What Type of Exercise Is Best Paired With Pilates?

Say you’re one of those people who have specific performance or aesthetic goals. As I’ve already established, relying on Pilates alone would be inefficient when it comes to planning a workout routine that suits your needs. So, what type of exercise can you engage in while still making time for Pilates?

Strength Training

As far as workout regimes go, strength training is a classic, and for good reason. Strength training, weight training, and other high-intensity exercises can do wonders for your body.

Luckily, they pair wonderfully with Pilates. The core strength you develop in Pilates is essential when it comes to maintaining good form in the gym and progressing with your weights without risking injury.

Moreover, Pilates promotes stability and flexibility, both of which can greatly affect your strength training.


Cardio and Pilates are like wine and cheese, a combo that will never go out of style. These two workout styles pair wonderfully with one another, especially if your Pilates sessions are more focused on strength conditioning.

Combining Pilates and cardio can help you achieve your endurance goals while keeping your heart, lungs, and mind healthier than ever.

If you’re unsure about the best (and most efficient way) to combine the two, you can head over to the article linked above. There, you’ll find lots of helpful information about how to combine Pilates and cardio to reach your fitness goals and optimize your health.

What you’ll also learn is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to combining Pilates and cardio.

For example, you can do them on consecutive days, making sure that you don’t over-exhaust yourself. If you want to get them out of the way one right after the other (i.e., on the same day), I recommend sorting them depending on your priorities.

If your goals are endurance-based, I recommend starting out with cardio first (while you’re still rested) to give it your 100%. Then, you can treat Pilates as your after-run stretching routine.

On the other hand, if you’re more focused on muscle conditioning, start with Pilates and then follow your routine with some light cardio.

However, if you haven’t got the time (or energy) to separate the two workouts, you can always opt for a cardio-pilates hybrid that will make your exercise regime much more efficient (albeit less effective if you want to reach specific goals).


If your goal is to improve your overall health, Pilates can definitely suffice as your only choice of exercise. However, if you have specific performance or aesthetic goals, you might want to optimize your routine by pairing Pilates with another type of workout, like strength training or cardio.

With that said, if you want to rely on Pilates as your only source of movement, there’s no shortage of tips and tricks you can try to make the most out of its muscle-conditioning and heart function-improving benefits.


Donna Finnie

Donna loves to share her passion for Pilates with others. She is a fully qualified instructor who believes Pilates is for everyone, regardless of age, as it can truly help to increase strength, flexibility mobility and athletic performance.

Recent Posts