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Which Is Better for Weight Loss: Yoga or Pilates?

author image Jenna Morris
Jenna Morris began writing in 2010 for various websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design from Columbia College Chicago and in 2007 she became a certified yoga instructor and NASM-certified personal trainer.
Which Is Better for Weight Loss: Yoga or Pilates?
Neither yoga or pilates will guarantee weight-loss results. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Often coupled together in the realm of mind and body fitness activities, yoga and Pilates offer similar benefits through different formats. Pilates focuses on strengthening and lengthening the body, particularly the core. Yoga focuses on total-body strengthening, stretching and breathing, and is offered in many different styles. But when seen in the light of weight loss, neither yoga nor Pilates may be your best source for dropping pounds. However, depending on the style, yoga may steal the show in burning calories.

Losing Weight

A study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2007 confirmed that weight loss is directly related to calories. You must burn more than you consume. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so burning 500 per day will set you back 1 lb. per week. A 160-pound person doing one hour of Pilates will burn 270 to 460 calories per session, depending on whether she is a beginner or advanced. One hour of yoga, depending on the style, will burn anywhere from 200 to 630 calories.


If you are looking to lose weight, solely doing Pilates will not be the most efficient way of achieving your goals. If you are coming from a sedentary lifestyle, any physical activity, be it Pilates or some other format, will most likely lead to some weight loss. But if you are a seasoned exerciser, it is unlikely that Pilates will magically make the weight fall off. What Pilates offers is a transformation of your body. Even if the number on the scale doesn't move, your clothes may fit differently, and you may have more muscle tone and an increased amount of strength.


Yoga is another platform that doesn't guarantee weight loss if it is your only physical activity. Though vinyasa yoga, a heat-building style linking poses with your breath, burns roughly 600 calories per hour, it is not a form of yoga that most people will do every single day -- which is what would be necessary if your goal was to lose 1 lb. per week. All forms of yoga will help tone, lengthen, and strengthen your muscles. And on a psychological level, yoga can create a more relaxed environment, allowing your mind to soften, your self-criticism to slow, and your confidence to build. Jan Maddern, author of "Yoga Burns Fat," states that yoga does two things for the individual looking to lose weight. It improves digestion, which eliminates water retention, bloating and constipation. And, it improves your endocrine system, which is responsible for your appetite, mood and sleep patterns.


If your main goal is to lose weight, don't shy away from yoga and Pilates. Their benefits of toned and strengthened muscles will only benefit you in your exercise regimen. If you are dead set on only performing yoga or Pilates, yoga will be the most efficient in burning the highest amount of calories. But steer away from hatha yoga, which only burns 200 per hour, and instead practice vinyasa yoga. For the best weight-loss results, however, let yoga or Pilates be an added benefit, and focus on aerobic exercise and strength training for the fastest route to losing weight.

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