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Pilates: Good for High Blood Pressure and Other Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Joseph Pilates developed the exercise system bearing his name to be a low-impact fitness routine that would be suitable for anyone. In an exercise class, a 60-year-old could perform Pilates side by side with a 20-year-old, with both of them getting a good workout

Pilates also works to enhance mindfulness and mood. This approachability may have led some to be sceptical of Pilates as a valuable form of exercise for improving cardiovascular health. Until recently, the subject had not been well studied.

In May, the American Journal of Hypertension published an interesting study putting Pilates to the test.1 Wong et al. conducted a randomised, controlled trial measuring a range of cardiovascular risk factors. Their subjects were obese women with high blood pressure. After only 12 weeks of Pilates classes led by a credentialed instructor, researchers compared outcomes to a waitlist control group. Aortic systolic blood pressure improved 6 mm Hg. Body fat composition improved 2%. Measures of arterial stiffness and plasma nitric oxide also improved.

Other modes of exercise can improve cardiovascular risk factors as well. This confirmation of the effectiveness of Pilates is good news to healthcare providers because people find Pilates so approachable. Pilates is a method of exercise focusing on controlled movement, stretching, and respiration. Practitioners describe Pilates as having six major components: centering, concentration, control, precision, flow, and breathing.2

It has already been well established that Pilates improves balance, flexibility, and strength.3 Research also shows Pilates to be a good rehabilitation tool for conditions such as back pain, post-menopausal osteoporosis, non-structural scoliosis, and neck pain.4 Now, we can also say with confidence, Pilates is good for cardiovascular fitness.   

Learn more about Pilates available at Advanced Physiotherapy.


  1. Wong A, Figueroa A, Fischer SM, Bagheri R, Park SY. The Effects of Mat Pilates Training on Vascular Function and Body Fatness in Obese Young Women With Elevated Blood Pressure. American Journal of Hypertension. 2020 May 21;33(6):563-9.
  2. Wells C, Kolt GS, Bialocerkowski A. Defining Pilates exercise: a systematic review. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2012 Aug 1; 20(4):253-62.
  3. Cruz-Ferreira A, Fernandes J, Laranjo L, Bernardo LM, Silva A. A systematic review of the effects of Pilates method of exercise in healthy people. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2011 Dec 1;92(12):2071-81. 
  4. Byrnes K, Wu PJ, Whillier S. Is Pilates an effective rehabilitation tool? A systematic review. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2018 Jan 1;22 (1):192-202.

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