The MOVE by BJC Blog

Worth the Hype: Pilates Fad

Monday, February 5, 2024

Welcome to “Worth the Hype,” where fitness specialists and exercise physiologists at Move by BJC break down the trendiest health and fitness fads on social media. We’ll discuss the history of the trend, why it may be gaining popularity and – based on science and research – whether it’s worth the hype!

“Pilates in 20 minutes to lose 5lbs,” “the only workout you’ll ever need,” “30 days of Pilates to your best body ever.” These are just a few of the captions and headlines that pop up when you search Pilates today. Most people are familiar with Pilates, or at least the word. They know it’s a form of exercise and probably believe it’s typically offered in a class or group setting, but what else? Why did Pilates find its place in exercise during World War 1? Who was it intended for? And why is it all the rage on TikTok today?

Pilates was developed by a German man named Joseph Pilates. While working as a nurse, he developed Pilates as a form of rehabilitation for soldiers returning from war. He attached springs and pulleys to hospital beds he developed – which is now known as the “reformer.” To create Pilates, he combined a combination of Western and Eastern training techniques that were adopted by high-level dancers and, eventually, the public. Pilates has only continued to gain traction over the last century, and like all forms of exercise, it has ebbed and flowed throughout the years but still stands strong today as a popular type of workout.

Why has it gained so much popularity on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, though, and is it truly worth the hype?

Pilates is a great form of low-impact exercise. It combines controlled movements with a focus on muscle elongation, improving core strength and emphasizing stabilizing muscles. How could such a focused workout and practice like Pilates not deserve a place in our routine? It absolutely does! However, the hype on social media is telling us that if we do Pilates multiple times a week, that’s all we need for a good workout routine – here’s why we can’t get behind that.  

The five pillars of fitness include 1) muscular strength, 2) muscular endurance, 3) cardiovascular health, 4) body composition and 5) flexibility. Pilates alone may address two to three of these pillars during a workout. Pilates is known for lengthening and “toning” muscles. Commonly targeted towards women, Pilates on social media has fallen back into focusing on people maintaining a “longer, leaner, slimmer” figure. The focus online has shifted once again to making us feel like we need to be a certain shape or size to be healthy, rather than focusing on the bigger picture. If we were to follow the trends of TikTok and focus all our workouts on Pilates, we would be missing foundational aspects of our routine and health including body composition, cardiovascular health and significant muscular strength.

We’ve all heard it a thousand times before: “everything in moderation,” but I prefer “most things in combination.” So, is it worth the hype? Maybe. Pilates is a great workout and can fit into any workout routine, whether you prefer to be in the studio with a class or at home on your mat. However, Pilates alone is missing too many aspects of health and fitness to be the end all be all that social media is dubbing it. Anything that claims to be “all you need” really is too good to be true when it comes to your health. Pilates absolutely deserves a place in your routine if you enjoy it, but you should also incorporate other physical activities throughout your week to supplement your Pilates workouts. Find activities you enjoy that also include strength training with heavy resistance two-to-three times per week, cardio that raises your heart rate to a point that carrying on a conversation is hard for 20+ minutes per day and flexibility training (which may include Pilates!). This combination will deliver the best results when seeking greater health, fitness and performance.

-Jessica Varner