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Yes, Your Pilates Workout Can Counts as Cardio — Here’s How

Add This Cardio Pilates Workout to Your Weekly Fitness Routine

Shot of an beautiful young female athlete working out in the city

Pilates isn't all about toning. If you're doing Pilates moves at a "cardio pace" (think running, biking, jumping rope), you're getting a high-intensity, low-impact cardio workout, too — just ask ACE-certified group fitness trainer and certified Pilates instructor Amy Jordan.

Resistance-training exercises, like Pilates, increases your body's muscle tissue and permanently cranks up your calorie burn, Jordan says. When you complete Pilates moves at a cardio pace, you're furthering the benefits of your workout because your body can burn calories during the session and even after you finish.

Because Pilates is a weight-bearing and resistance-training activity, Jordan says it's beneficial for conditioning the heart and lungs, and for weight loss, too.

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While Jordan suggests practicing Pilates 3-4 times a week to gain the long-term cardio benefits, she also says it's really all about keeping attainable goals. "Sustainability is key — if you do more than you were doing before, that's a win."

Here's a five-move Pilates plan she's created to help you get started — remember to keep at a comfortable cardio pace in order to advance the benefits of each move.

Plank

  • Begin in a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor and your feet parallel to each other — about four inches apart.
  • Draw your navel up and in.
  • Broaden your collarbones on every inhale to take pressure off your wrists (or your elbows if you're modifying the move).
  • Narrow your outer hip bones without tightening your booty. This activates your low belly for healthy conditioning and flat abs.
  • If this is the first time you're trying a plank, start in 10-second intervals, aiming to hold it longer every time you try, eventually reaching 1-2 minutes of a hold.

Lunge and Arms Raises

  • Start standing with your feet parallel and about 4-6 inches apart.
  • Inhale and step your left foot forward while shifting your weight into all four corners of your left foot and raising your right heel.
  • Exhale and bend both knees as your torso lowers straight down. Allow your left knee to glide just in front of your ankle.
  • Inhale and think about the torso lifting up and off the hips to return you to a standing position.
  • Add small dumbbells (or soup cans!) in each hand and lift out to the sides in a wide T as you lower down to pump up your cardio and weight loss effort.
  • Complete 12 reps per side.

Downhill Ski

  • Start in a plank position and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor with your feet parallel, about four inches apart.
  • Exhale and shift your torso back behind your arms as your knees bend to the left.
  • Inhale and shift back into your starting plank position.
  • Exhale and shift your torso back behind your arms as your knees bend to the right.
  • Place a five-inch playground ball between your legs a few inches above your knees, with your feet still four inches apart, to help tone your inner thighs.
  • Complete 12 reps per side.

Criss-Cross

  • Lay on your back with your legs in a table-top position. Your hands should be interlaced below the base of your skull.
  • Slowly lift your head, neck, and shoulders into a shallow curl while keeping lots of length on all sides of your spine.
  • Inhale as your right shoulder blade peels off of the floor and ribs rotate to the left. As you rotate, your right leg should extend at a diagonal.
  • Exhale and return your ribs to the center while keeping your head and shoulders raised.
  • Inhale as your left shoulder blade peels off of the floor and your ribs rotate toward the right. As you rotate, your left leg should extend at a diagonal.
  • Don't touch your elbow to your knee — keep the front of your body long.
  • Complete 12 reps per side.

Single-Leg Bridges

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent, both feet flat on the floor, and your outer thighs magnetized to keep your legs closed. Hold three-pound dumbbells in each hand with your arms reaching straight to the sky.
  • Exhale and roll the pelvis slowly toward your navel to peel your hips off the floor and follow with the rest of the spine. Lift with length until you are in a bridge with no creases on the front of your hips, and lengthen through your lower back.
  • Inhale while keeping the knees glued together, extend the right leg at a 45-degree angle.
  • Hold this single-leg bridge; exhale as both arms open to the sides with a soft bend at the elbows until your hands hover over the floor.
  • Inhale while your arms bend to a 90-degree angle, with your elbows hovering over the floor. Sweep your arms back to your starting position straight to the sky.
  • Exhale and slowly lower down starting from your upper back to your pelvis, while keeping your back long and your leg extended.
  • Complete four reps per side.
  • For an added challenge, do six reps on each side, but for the last two reps, hover the standing heel one inch off the floor throughout the entire range of motion.

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