YES! Pilates CAN be a cardio workout

If you’re new to Pilates you might be wondering if it’s as good at getting your heart rate up as other forms of exercise such as running or biking.

Most Pilates workouts are not cardio workouts. Specific workouts, such as Power Pilates, does result in a cardio fat burning workout thanks to the addition of both body weight and small hand weights.

Of course there are many types of classes and not all will provide a cardio element, let’s take a some examples you can try at home and see if they get your hear rate up.

WorkoutLength# Cardio# Fat burn
Power Pilates21 min9 min7 min
Full Body20 min0 min0 min
Stretching24 min0 min0min
Results measured using a FitBit Sense

Let’s take a closer look at what was involved with each of these workouts, you can even try them yourself as I’ve used workouts available on YouTube.

A Good FREE Pilates Workout

For this experiment I’m going to do several videos for a challenge series, recording the results.

To set the bar for this experiment I started with this Power Pilates video which lasts about 20 minutes and requires small hand weights (or a couple of tins of food if you don’t have weights) and a mat. 

This is part of an 8-day exercise programme that you do once per day for 8 days and it helps increase your core strength and gives your entire body a great workout. I really enjoyed this workout more than I expected and it certainly felt harder than others I’ve tried.

Power Pilates Cardio Results

A FitBit Sense was used to measure and record the impact Power Pilates had. If you’re not familiar with the Sense it’s a watch that can measure a range of physical responses to a workout, including cardio activity.

Here are the results recorded during this class:

  • Length: 21 minutes
  • Cardio: 9 minutes
  • Fate burn: 7 minutes
FitBit Results for Power Pilates Workout

If you watch the video you’ll see it doesn’t look like high intensity exercise, it’s not an aerobic workout that has you jumping around, but the level of difficulty is higher than it looks. 

The results graph shows this workout increased, and maintained, my heart rate for most of the activity.

Of the 21 minutes some time was spent at the start setting up, but then 9 minutes of the workout were classed as cardio while 7 minutes were classed as fat burn, with the overall workout burning around 8 calories a minute.

Take these results with a pinch of salt, they’re my personal results and if you do the class you will likely end up with a different outcome depending on factors such as fitness level, age, gender etc.

Full Body Pilates Cardio Results

Using the FitBit sense again let’s measure a more typical Pilates workout.  This is also part of the 8-day challenge and gives you a full body workout:

It’s just under 20-minutes but with different moves that don’t require any hand weights. I still found this challenging, but in a different way, I could tell this wasn’t pushing me the same way as the Power session. Here are the results:

  • Length: 20 minutes
  • Cardio: 0 minutes
  • Fate burn: 0 minutes
FitBit Results for Full Body Pilates workout

It’s a great session but as you can see from the results it didn’t raise my heart rate as much and my FitBit didn’t class any of the time as cardio or fat burn.  

Stretching Routine Cardio Results

My final experiment was to try a challenging class focusing on stretching, the only equipment required is a mat. Given the full body results I expected this would produce similar results:

  • Length: 24 minutes
  • Cardio: 0 minutes
  • Fate burn: 0 minutes

As this was a far more relaxed session the results should come as no surprise that there was no cardio or fat burn minutes recorded.

Is Pilates Cardio? Pilates is SOMETIME Cardio

The benefit of taking up Pilates classes is they cover a multitude of areas, sometimes that might be strength training, weight training, flexibility or cardio training. 

If you’re more use to aerobic exercise you might be pleasantly surprised at how challenging these low impact seasons can be, just remember to select the right class for your needs. The variety of classes allows you to build a fitness routine that is ever evolving.

Pilates 8-Day Challenge

If you’d like to give the 8-Day challenge a try it’s available for free via YouTube, or if you prefer not to use YouTube you can sign up to our free online course.

This course has been created by Pilates Moves You certified instructor Donna Finnie and the 8 Pilates classes are designed to help you maintain regular exercise with minimal Pilates Equipment required (mat and hand weights, but tinned food cans will also work).

The workout program is a great form of exercise whatever your fitness level and will help get you into a routine of doing a workout everyday.

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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