If you're trying to lose weight, here's some good news: There's not really a bad workout for weight loss. Sure, HIIT workouts can blast calories like crazy and weight lifting will help boost your metabolism by increasing your muscle mass, but the truth is, any form of movement — especially one you enjoy and stick to — can help you drop pounds.
That can include low-impact workouts like yoga and Pilates, as long as they're part of an overall effective weight-loss plan. "Neither yoga nor Pilates alone would be good choices for losing weight," says James Bagley, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology at San Francisco State University. "But I recommend them for other reasons: They build muscle strength and endurance, help you develop relaxation strategies and improve your balance and coordination."
How Pilates and Yoga Factor Into Weight Loss
If you're serious about losing weight, Bagley suggests cutting about 500 calories from your diet a day and doing endurance exercise or high-intensity interval training most days of the week.
"Any rhythmic exercise that uses large muscle groups — like running, fast-walking, swimming and cycling — is ideal for weight loss," Bagley says. "Combine this with yoga, Pilates and/or weightlifting a couple of times a week, and you'll be on the right track for weight loss."
Trying to decide which workout deserves more of your time and effort? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Calories Burned Doing Pilates and Yoga
Even though neither Pilates nor yoga burns as many calories as, say, running or HIIT, you're still moving and that's going to burn calories.
A 130-pound person will burn 354 calories doing an hour of Bikram yoga, 413 calories in an hour of Ashtanga/power yoga and 148 calories doing an hour of Hatha yoga, according to WebMD. That same person will burn 177 calories doing an hour of beginner Pilates and 354 calories when they progress to advanced.
But intensity matters, and the good thing about Pilates and yoga, like most workouts, is that you can switch up the intensity based on your needs. Trying to burn more calories? Take a Lagree class, a more intense version of Pilates. Trying to recover from your long run the previous day? Try some restorative yoga instead. Either workout can be more effective than the other, depending on which you're more likely to do at a higher intensity.
Other Weight-Loss Benefits of Yoga and Pilates
For starters, yoga and Pilates can make your workout routine more well-rounded, which is important for weight loss. A 2014_ Journal of Applied Physiology_ study found that people lost more weight (and body fat) when they committed to a mix of workouts — including endurance training, Pilates and yoga — versus just resistance training.
"It's very difficult to just lift weights or only do the treadmill or the elliptical machine and be healthy," Paul Arciero, the study author, said in a press release. "Your exercise regimen needs to encompass as much of what makes you a fully integrated living person as possible." That means moving (and challenging) your body in different ways as much as you can.
And even though yoga and Pilates don't burn as many calories as some other workouts, they can reduce stress (this is especially true for yoga), which may encourage you to eat better. In fact, a 2009 _Journal of the American Dietetic Association _study found that yoga can help you eat more mindfully.
The same goes for sleep: Research presented at the 2015 SLEEP conference in Seattle, WA, found that both workouts can help improve your sleeping habits. And since a lack of quality sleep is also associated with a high-calorie diet, these workouts may indirectly steer you towards more weight-loss-friendly foods.
Read more: 12 Benefits of Pilates (Besides Strong Abs!)
Bottom Line: Is Yoga or Pilates Better for Weight Loss?
We hate to dodge the question, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you're looking at these workouts in isolation. Your weight-loss success truly depends on finding a workout you enjoy (and therefore, actually do regularly — and probably at a higher intensity), whether or not you reduce your calorie intake (the biggest factor when it comes to weight loss) and the other workouts you add to your arsenal.
So, in some ways, "What workout will I do the most?" is the real question you should be asking.
- WebMD: "Exercise Calculator"
- Press Release: "Quality, Not Quantity, Counts Most in Exercise, Diet"
- Journal of Applied Physiology: "Timed-daily ingestion of whey protein and exercise training reduces visceral adipose tissue mass and improves insulin resistance: the PRISE study"
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: "Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire"
- 2015 Sleep Conference: "Study Maps Types of Physical Activity Associated With Better Sleep"