How often should I do cardio with Pilates?


Many people are starting to combine Pilates with other workouts as a way to maximize their fitness gains. Some also do this to introduce additional challenges to their fitness regime. Cardio seems to be a popular choice as it can be different from Pilates. However, how do you combine both properly? How often should you do cardio with Pilates?

There are no set rules on how you should combine cardio exercises with Pilates. Some like to do it back-to-back with their Pilates session. Some people do them on the same day, but with some time apart. Some also like to rotate between cardio and Pilates daily. The key is to adjust the intensity to avoid overtraining. 

In this article, I discuss whether combining cardio with Pilates is a good idea and how you may combine cardio with your Pilates regime. I also explore if there are other workouts you can combine with Pilates as well. 

Can I Do Cardio With Pilates?

You can perform cardio with Pilates. In fact, it is an excellent additional exercise to combine with Pilates, as cardio exercises address some fitness areas that Pilates lack, stamina, and cardio endurance. The key is to combine them in a way that works for you and prevents you from overtraining or injuring yourself. 

There is a reason why Pilate practitioners like to combine cardio exercises into their fitness regime. It just works. 

Here is a thing. Pilates is great for flexibility, core strength, and joint mobility. It is even an excellent therapeutic workout. However, Pilates is not a good workout if you intend to build a strong cardiovascular system. 

Pilates involves you executing a series of slow, controlled movements, often in a relaxing environment. You may occasionally break a sweat, but usually, it is your core, muscles, and joints that are working. Your lungs and heart? Not so much. 

This means you may want to combine another form or exercise to address this gap. Naturally, cardio exercises come into the picture. 

There are many types of cardio exercises. You can either just do some running on the treadmill or get into swimming and cycling. You can also go hard and perform some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) such as Tabata or CrossFit. 

READ MORE: CrossFit vs. Pilates – Which Is Better?

What is Cardio?

Cardio refers to all forms of exercise that increases heart rate (beats per minute) and blood flow in order to improve cardiovascular health. The term cardio also includes activities such as running, swimming, cycling, walking, etc.

The main goal of doing cardio is to burn calories and increase metabolism. This helps us lose weight and maintain our ideal body composition.

Cardio is also important for improving overall fitness. It improves muscle mass, bone density, and metabolic function. It also reduces stress levels and strengthens the immune system.

In the long run, building cardio into your regular exercise routine will help improve your fitness levels, and help with weight loss/maintaining a healthy weight.

Benefits of Cardio

Regular cardio exercise has been proven to improve health and longevity.  It helps burn belly fat, strengthens bones, improves sleep quality, reduces stress levels, boosts mood, and lowers risks of diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and heart attack.

However, most people don’t realize that cardio exercises offer additional benefits beyond burning calories.

Here are five unexpected cardio benefits that you may not have known about.

Cardio Exercise Helps Burn Belly Fat

Obesity is one of the biggest health problems today. If you struggle with stubborn belly fat, cardio exercise is an excellent solution.

Studies show that aerobic activity can help you burn belly fat faster than other forms of exercise.

Cardio Exercise Improves Sleep Quality

Many people suffer from insomnia due to stress, anxiety, and depression. However, lack of sleep leads to poor memory, concentration, and decision-making abilities.

Researchers found that people who exercised regularly had improved sleep quality, which was attributed to increased oxygen flow to the brain.

Cardio Exercise Boosts Mood

It’s long been established that most types of exercise will have a positive impact on mental health, including reducing stress and boosting mood.

Cardio Exercise Reduces Stress Levels

Stress affects everyone differently, but chronic stress can lead to serious health issues.

Research shows that exercising regularly can significantly decrease stress levels. For example, a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine revealed that individuals who participated in a 10-week fitness program reported feeling less stressed and anxious.

Cardio Exercise Can Help Prevent Diabetes

Another common health problem affecting millions of people worldwide is Diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, over 29 million adults have diabetes in the United States alone.

Regular aerobic exercise can prevent type 2 diabetes. Research shows that people who participate in regular aerobic exercise have a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

When combined with diet changes, regular aerobic exercise can help reverse prediabetes symptoms.

So next time you head to the gym, remember that you aren’t just working out to burn calories. You’re improving your overall health and helping yourself live longer.

How Often Should I Do Cardio With Pilates?

There are no rules on how often you should perform cardio exercises with your Pilates regime. You can perform them back-to-back, or you can schedule them as two-a-days. You can also rotate the workouts daily. The point is to avoid overtraining, which can lead to fatigue, and injury. 

The nice thing about combining cardio with Pilates is that there are no rules set in stone on how you should do it. You are free to combine the two workouts in whatever way you wish, as long as it works for you. 

This made people experiment. Some decide to do it back-to-back. They perform their cardio before their Pilates session or after. This is a time and effort-efficient option, as you only need to go to the gym once, do the workout, and then shower and be done with it. 

To get started try adding this 10 minute core blast workout to your routine to finish off.

Some perform them on the same day but schedule them as two-a-days. They may start their day with some Pilates in the morning before going out the door for the day and end their day with a sweat-busting cardio workout. A morning person may try to do cardio in the morning instead and end the day with a more relaxing Pilates workout. 

Another option is to rotate cardio and Pilates daily. This means you perform Pilates on day one, cardio on day two, Pilates again on day three, and continue until a rest day. This option may be the least physically taxing and may work if you are concerned about your physical ability. 

Experiment as you wish. The key is that as you try these options, you listen and feel what your body is telling you. If you start to feel tired or notice muscle soreness and weakness, it may be a sign of overtraining, and you might want to slow it down. 

Tips When Combining Cardio With Pilates

When combining Pilates with cardio, you might want to start slow. You might also consider reducing the intensity, as well as experimenting with multiple variants of cardio. Rest days may also work well, and avoiding overtraining, fatigue, and injury is essential. 

Start Slow: If you are just starting the process of combining cardio with your Pilates routine, start slow. For example, instead of immediately trying a back-to-back session, start with a daily rotation schedule. 

This is because adding another workout to your fitness routine may add stress to your body. When it comes to additional stress, you always want to add it on slowly, so your body can slowly cope. Adding too much too soon can overtrain and injure you. 

Reduce Intensity: Similar to the advice of starting slow, you may want to reduce the intensity of the workout itself. Say if you are concerned about your body’s ability to cope. Instead of one hour of Pilates daily, you tone it down to a 40-minute session before starting a 30-minute run. 

This allows your body time to slowly cope with the added intensity and stress, reducing the chances of overtraining and injury. 

Experiment With Multiple Cardio Exercises: Cardio is more than just running on the treadmill. If you plan to integrate cardio into your Pilates regime, you may want to check out all available cardio options. 

As a start, you may do classic cardio-based workouts such as running, swimming, or cycling. You can also experiment with HIIT-based activities such as CrossFit. You may find some form of cardio less taxing on your body and may help you adjust better. 

Schedule Rest Days: You are not training to beat Michael Phelps, nor are you trying to out limber Simone Biles. You can have a rest day or two if your body needs it. This is where Pilates makes for an ideal partner to cardio: A Pilates practice can be helpful in your active recovery

Adding workouts to your existing regime may be a physically taxing experience, meaning you may want to take it slow. You should also listen and feel what your body tells you as you combine your cardio with Pilates. If fatigue starts to set in, you may want to have a rest day to allow your body some time to recover. 

Are There Other Workouts I Can Combine With Pilates?

Aside from cardio, some also combine workouts such as weight lifting and Yoga with the Pilates regime. This is because weight lifting increases muscle growth, which Pilates may not address too well. Yoga adds a spiritual and meditative element to exercises, which may attract some Pilates practitioners. 

When adding another workout to Pilates, many try to add exercises that address some aspects of fitness that Pilates may not address too well. 

For example, strength and muscle growth. Sure, you will build up some strength doing Pilates, and you can increase the challenge by adding small hand weights.

Still, you will not witness much muscle growth or significant power generation increase. This leads to some Pilates practitioners adding weight lifting and strength training into their Pilates regime. 

READ MORE: Can I lift weights after Pilates?

Another aspect that Pilates may not cover well is the spiritual and meditative aspects of the workout. As a result, some add Yoga to their workout regime since Yoga often involves some spiritual elements taken from Vedic religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, or Buddhism. Yoga also added some meditative elements to exercise, which some may find appealing. 

Final Thoughts

As a qualified Pilates instructor I teach (and therefore take part in) Pilates classes multiple times per week, but that doesn’t mean it’s my only form of exercise.

Far from it!  While I appreciate all the health benefits that come from doing a regular full-body workout, you can take your health and fitness to an entirely new level by incorporating a regular cardio workout.

Pilates is great for building core strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and endurance. It’s also great for toning muscles, improving posture, and increasing mobility. However, it does not offer any resistance training or muscle growth. So when combining it with other forms of exercise, make sure to choose one that offers both.

If you’re looking to get fit, healthy, and strong, then combining these into a regular routine is a fantastic choice. 

If you’re interested in learning if Pilates is cardio, check out this article: YES! Pilates CAN be a cardio workout.


Sources

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00931.x

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168822709001284

http://www.kheljournal.com/archives/2018/vol5issue6/PartB/5-6-13-116.pdf

https://ard.bmj.com/content/76/Suppl_2/1041.2.abstract

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/030105119505118T

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/

https://www.johnmuirhealth.com/health-education/conditions-treatments/diabetes-articles/preventing-diabetes.html

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.

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