If I had a nickel for every time I was asked, “How many times a week should I do Pilates?” I would be rich. The stock answer generally given by those in the industry is three times a week. While I can’t argue with that answer as it generally checks all the boxes for getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week and sets up a good routine, because we all know consistency is important, I don’t feel that answer really speaks to everything that needs to be said.
I am going to go under the assumption that when someone is asking, they are really asking how many 40-50 minute Pilates classes they should take each week either online or in person. It’s also important to note that the individual goals of the person asking will always dictate the exact answer given to get them where they want to go. But there are a few more things to take into consideration when deciding how many days a week you should be doing Pilates.
You can technically take a Pilates class in person or online every day because you won’t be extremely sore the day after and maybe not sore at all. Not because you did not do anything hard, but because the emphasis and intention of Pilates is focused on ultimate quality, control, and fluidity of the whole movement system within the human body, not on quantity, progressive overload or reaching muscle failure of specific muscle categories within part of the human movement system. Both ways of thinking have a time and a place but because of the structure of Pilates, you won’t rip your muscle, so you don’t need to let them rest the next day unlike with traditional strength training where you have to alternate muscle categories to allow proper recovery between sessions.
So why would I not tell you to take a Pilates class everyday then? Because your time is valuable and I would be doing you a disservice if I failed to mention the importance of strength training and cardiovascular training on a weekly basis! General fitness guidelines also suggest two days a week of strength training and I think more women really need to take that to heart! I love Pilates and it is a part of my day every day (more on that in a minute) but to really serve your body well, you need to be doing Pilates along with some sustained cardio and strength training of some sort. And truthfully, Pilates is going to help you do all of those other things better and help you find more confidence in your own capabilities too.
So, my short answer is similar to the sentiment above. I would suggest taking three Pilates classes a week. I would also aim for 2 strength training sessions a week with some zone two cardio mixed in for a well-rounded week. Now I am going to muddy the waters a bit though. I often hear women say in response to that suggestion, “I don’t like to work out or lift weights”. So, if that is you, my suggestion of how many days a week you should be doing Pilates changes to 4-5 times a week. You see, I know Pilates is a gateway workout and it will make you feel so much better but also it has the power to change your mindset if you let it.
Once you realize you can do hard things, your body is capable and strong, and you enjoy how you feel when you get done, I’d be willing to bet you will be more likely to sub out a Pilates class for a weight training class one day a week. If you remember a few paragraphs above, I mentioned I do some type of Pilates every day and here I am only suggesting you do it three or, at most in certain situations, five times a week. It’s because I want Pilates to become a part of you and how you move through your day, not just something you do to check off a to-do list. Your body was designed to move and Pilates will help you find your way back to that if you truly practice and learn the Pilates method. Pilates has so much more to offer than just checking off a box of getting in three classes a week. Should you take weekly Pilates classes to keep the Pilates in you? Absolutely! But what I really want you to know is that through Pilates you learn to listen to your body and respond to its ever-changing needs throughout your day. Maybe you do five or ten minutes of Pilates here or there between Zoom meetings or while the baby naps. Maybe you use some of the mat Pilates you’ve learned as part of your warm-up before your next big game or morning run. Pilates is more than a workout. It’s a lifestyle. So while I tell the new clients in our studio to aim for three sessions a week, I have bigger dreams for you than you may realize!