Is Pilates Cardio Or Strength?


Both cardio and strength training is required for a well rounded exercise program. There are so many methods you can use to tick off your cardio workouts and add muscle mass, but have you ever considered using Pilates exercises? And more importantly, let’s answer the question is Pilates cardio or strength training?

If we rewind back to the early days of Pilates it would be considered a strength and conditioning workout. Joseph Pilates, the founder of the method, used his experience and research to create a system of functional movements that promote flexibility, stability and strength within the body. 

The Pilates workout has changed and evolved over the years, depending on the instructor and studio you do your classes with, you could find yourself doing just strength work or both strength and cardio.

What is the difference between cardio and strength workouts? 

Although we don’t like to only focus on workout results alone, it is an easy way to distinguish the difference between cardio and strength. 

Cardio Training

When you do a cardio workout you move your body in a way that results in the increase of your heart and metabolic rate.

You move faster than normal so you’ll sweat, you might get puffed out. You’ll experience the release of feel good hormones, it’s an instant mood lifter and has a positive impact on mental health.

Cardio builds endurance within your circulatory system. Remember your heart is a muscle and its job is to pump your amazing body with blood! Like all muscles within the body it needs to be exercised regularly. 

Cardio workouts also contribute to lowering your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Ahhh, feeling inspired to workout? We are!

Types of cardio workouts

  • Running, not our favourite but very accessible. 
  • Walking, but add some speed. You don’t have to power walk but, walk fast enough to feel your heart rate elevate. We love walking! 
  • Swimming. We grew up swimming, it’s a great low impact way to work on cardio fitness.
  • Skipping, fun and wow quite hard!
  • Dancing! Ahhh maybe the most fun! 
  • Boxing, stair climbs, aerobics, bike riding… ok you get it!
  • And of course, Pilates!

Choose your favourite cardio exercise and make it a consistent part of your life. The way to create a consistent habit is to discover a workout you love to do!

We personally love to use Pilates as a cardio workout. Although not cardio traditionally, (the Pilates Elders would not approve) when you add a little speed to Pilates classes not only do you have an effective cardio workout, you also have a fun workout!

You can try this 4 minute class now! During this high intensity class you’ll feel your heart rate pump, you’ll get sweaty and you’ll have fun. We promise! 

Strength Training

When you do a strength based workout you’ll use your own bodyweight, weights or resistance bands. You’ll push, pull and lift weight to contract your muscles, this is why it’s also referred to as weight training or resistance training. 

This kind of movement leads to building muscle mass, strength and endurance within your body. Strength training is necessary for so many health reasons. It maintains strong bones, healthy joints, creates better posture and better balance. It can even help chronic issues like chronic low back pain!

Strength training has a reputation of building bulky muscles and it certainly can if this is your goal but it can also build lean and strong muscles. It really depends on the style of training you do.

Types of strength workouts

  • Pumping iron, heavy weights. Either with machine weights or free weights. We quite enjoy lifting weights, we don’t do it right now but it has been part of our regular exercise routine in the past. 
  • Kettlebells. This is a very popular way of strength training. Not our favourite, kind of makes us feel like we might pop a shoulder (hehe). 
  • Resistance bands. Booty band with Pilates, hello ouchies (in a good way!).
  • Body weight training! We love this because it’s just so accessible for everyone. Think squats, push ups plank holds and lunges! 
  • Pilates! Both reformer and mat styles!

Pilates is the ultimate strength and conditioning workout. When you do Reformer Pilates you’ll use the reformer machine which uses a system of pulleys and springs to create resistance.

Again, because we love an accessible workout, our preference is mat Pilates. All you need is your body, a little motivation and your Pilates mat, Yoga mat, or just some space on the ground! 

Pilates is famous for being the ultimate way to strengthen your core. This is because the movements begin at the core, from the centre of your body. There is an emphasis on holding the core muscles strong in the correct position during all movements.

The difference between Pilates and weight lifting is that you’re moving in all kinds of directions, not just up and down or pulling and pushing. The movements also engage the smaller muscle groups to create stability and improve balance.  


What about weight loss? 

Here at MerryBody, we do not focus on weight loss. We spent too many years being obsessed with and trying every diet under the sun to lose weight. Spending years of thinking our worth was based on external looks alone. Years of linking beauty to thinness. After years of working out with the goal to burn calories and lose body fat, we realised this way of living was creating sadness and suffering.

Now, we workout to feel strong and fit. We focus on core strength, not for the 6 pack but for the fact that it promotes better posture and reduces back pain! 

Now, we exercise to release those feel good endorphins and create more contentment in life. We move to ensure we can have a good range of motion for many years to come! We workout for the simple joy of working out, yes, exercise can be fun! 

If you’d like to experience some of our core strength focused classes and the effectiveness of Pilates, sign up to our free 3 day Core Challenge over here!


Do the classes and let us know how you go! 

Always merrymaking,
Emma + Carla 

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