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How Often Should I Do Pilates to See Results?

People ask me when they sign up for their first Pilates class "how often should I do Pilates?" My response is usually, "That depends on what kind of results you want." You can reduce back pain or relieve stress at the end of a long week with one session....but if you want to tighten your abs, run a marathon without injury, get back into pre-baby shape or simply tone up....make a commitment to Pilates 2-3 times a week.

One of Joseph Pilates' most famous quotes is...."In 10 sessions you will feel the difference. In 20 sessions you will see the difference and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body." He says in his book, Return to Life Through Contrology (which is a quick and entertaining read since it was originally published in 1945 and gives you a peek into the mind of this genius):

"If you faithfully perform your Contrology exercises regularly only four times a week for just three months, you will find your body development approaching the ideal, accompanied by renewed mental vigor and spiritual enhancement."

Here's the bottom line...Pilates whether on the mat or on the equipment, does not work if you only do it every once in a while. You have to commit to a minimum of once a week. Here' s why:

1. Pilates has a steep learning curve. It requires regular practice and lots of concentration. There are lots of exercises to learn. Each one has a breathing pattern. There is a general sequence and transitions from one exercise to the next.

2. Even the simplest Pilates exercise focuses on multiple things - breathing, coordinated muscle contractions, balance and control. As a beginner you tend to focus on one or two things. As you get more advanced you begin to integrate multiple levels of a exercise. The better you get, the more you will get out of it!

3. Pilates exercises have a distinct progression from beginner to intermediate to advanced. The same exercise can be made more difficult by performing it on one leg, adding props or changing your position.

Make it a Habit

Ideally, Pilates is something you do 24/7. Joseph Pilates was all about the mind-body connection. Ask Google how long it takes to create a habit and you will hear 21-28 days. Focusing on Pilates principles everyday can help change old postural habits (ie. slumping in our seats, rolling our shoulders forward, standing on one hip). The more you do it...the more natural positive postural habits become. Pilates builds a body awareness that translates into everything you do. So my response to the question "How often should I do Pilates?" is this:

Once a week is great, 2 times a week is better....and 3 times a week is amazing! Remember, Pilates doesn't have to be your only exercise. Commit to movement everyday! Pilates just happens to be a very fun and effective way to do it!

Compiled by Tricia Slipacoff. Tricia is a co-owner of Northern Star Yoga & Pilates in Sarnia, ON, Canada. Tricia has been a Pilates instructor for 12 years.