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Is Aerobics or Pilates Better for Losing Weight?

By Andrea Boldt ; Updated November 20, 2017

When you want to lose fat and see the number on your scale go down, aerobics is a better exercise choice than Pilates. Don't write off Pilates altogether, though — it has a lot to offer in terms of creating definition in your muscles and helping to develop core strength. This means you stand taller and look thinner even if you haven't lost a pound.

Understand what it takes to lose weight, and how both aerobics and Pilates have a role in a slim-body fitness routine.

Energy Expenditure

Gaining and losing weight is a complex metabolic process, but much of it depends on the equation of calories in versus calories out. Eat more calories from food and beverages than you expend, and you gain weight. To lose weight, raise your calorie burn — and usually decrease your calorie intake — to see results.

To lose a pound on the scale, you must eat 3,500 calories fewer than you burn. This takes a bit of time to do healthfully and without feelings of extreme deprivation. Most recommendations suggest you create a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. You can certainly cut back on what you eat, but adding in calorie-burning physical activity expedites the process.

Comparing Calorie Burns

Aerobics, such as dance fitness classes or traditional low- or high-impact, tends to burn more calories than a Pilates workout, thus offering a greater advantage to weight loss efforts. A 175-pound person doing an aerobics workout for 45 minutes burns between 362 and 417 calories, depending on intensity and effort. Pilates classes burn about 211 calories in a similar amount of time.

While you can progress in your Pilates practice to more advanced, rigorous exercises that burn up to 378 calories in that 45 minutes, this takes discipline, years of practice and skill. To burn so many calories in Pilates, you must decrease the rest between exercises, perform more complex moves and maintain a constant flow throughout the session.

Remember that calories burned estimates are only an approximation and that they vary according to your size, experience with an exercise and intensity. Burning lots of calories doesn't give you the license to eat all you want either. You'll more effectively slim down if you cut out high-calorie, low-nutrient foods such as added sugars and refined carbohydrates and emphasize eating moderate portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, such as fish and chicken.

Pilates Builds Posture and Awareness

Just because Pilates is less effective than aerobics at helping you lose weight doesn't mean you should give up on it entirely. Pilates emphasizes the strength of the core, which includes the muscles of your abs, as well as all other supporting muscles of your trunk. When your core is strong, aerobics and other exercise is easier to sustain for longer periods of time — and the longer you go, the more calories you burn.

Plus, a strong core helps you stand up tall with good posture. When you stand up straight, rather than slouching, it automatically makes you look slimmer and more confident, even when you haven't lost a pound.

Pilates also provides variety in your workouts. Yes, you want to do moderate-intensity cardio, such as aerobics, for a minimum of 250 minutes per week to prompt significant weight loss, says the American College of Sports Medicine, but adding a Pilates workout or two per week to that schedule improves your muscle strength, flexibility and function. Pilates can also offer a non-impact option for days you just don't feel like jumping, jacking and bouncing on the gym floor.

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