Pilates has a hard-core following. Its devotees credit the workouts for long, lean muscles, increased flexibility and a strong, flat core. Of course, getting a Pilates body is a labor of love. Its benefits happen over time and with regular, continuous practice.
At the beginning of your Pilates practice or at times when you increase the intensity of your routine, you may notice upward shifts in the number on your scale. In most cases, you can consider that shift a sign from your body that you're doing things right.
Pilates to Tone and Strengthen
Pilates is perhaps best known for the way it effectively tones and strengthens muscle. If you perform Pilates on a regular basis, you'll see and feel obvious muscle changes. In the beginning, as you start to build muscle, you may gain it faster than you lose fat. When this happens, your scale doesn't accurately reflect your success.
For example, if you lose one pound of fat but gain two pounds of muscle, your scale will show that you gained one pound. Use your body measurements and the way your clothes feel as a more accurate predictor of success in the beginning.
Read more: 10 Surprising Benefits of Pilates
Increased Muscle and Increased Appetite
All that increased muscle, plus other positive changes happening in your body, leads to increased metabolism. Increased metabolism means you burn calories faster, but it can also mean increased appetite. If you don't stay at a state where you burn more calories than you eat, you'll gain weight regardless of how much you exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Make sure increased appetite hasn't caused you to increase your calorie intake to the point of weight gain.
Read more: Top 10 Pilates Exercises
Overestimating Calorie Burn
Even though Pilates is an effective way to burn calories and build muscle, the actual number of calories burned during Pilates turns out to be relatively low. Cleveland Clinic estimated that you can burn 500 calories in one hour and thirty-five minutes of Pilates and 167 in thirty minutes. Considering that a 155-pound person can burn 372 calories in 30 minutes of swimming laps, according to Harvard Health, Pilates hovers at the modest end of the scale. If you overestimate the number of calories you burn through exercise, you may also overestimate the number of calories you can eat each day without gaining weight.
Water Retention and Dehydration
Pilates can be extraordinarily challenging. Even the exercises that feel easy call on your muscles to work extra hard. If you don't hydrate before, during and after Pilates, you could become dehydrated. When you're dehydrated, your body may retain water to compensate, which can show up on the scale as weight gain. Dehydration can also affect your electrolyte balance to the point that your cells and tissues swell according to Mayo Clinic. Increasing fluid intake and continuing to exercise is the best way to relieve water weight gain.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Finding a Balance"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "A Healthier You"
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights”
- ClevelandClinic.org: "16 Ways to Burn Calories: Which Is Best for You?"
- MayoClinic.org: "Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?"
- American Council on Exercise: Pilates Primer;