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Can Pilates make abdominal fat disappear?

School Of Pilates Posted Sep 21, 2015 Future Fit Training


A survey by a medical insurance company has found that what we see in the mirror is a far greater incentive than the promises of lower blood pressure or reduced cholesterol made in public health campaigns.

Can Pilates make abdominal fat disappear?

Does chewing chewing gum give you a thin face? 

No…..and I’ll tell you why.

First, let’s begin with a (very brief) bit of science.  A fat cell is a fat cell.  It can get fuller (if there is an excess of unused calories) or emptier (if there is a calorie deficit created by doing more and eating less).  A fat cell cannot turn into a muscle cell. 

A muscle cell is a muscle cell.  It can hypertrophy (enlarge) when used beyond its normal parameters.  It can hypotrophy (decrease in size) when left unused for some time.  It cannot ‘turn to fat’.

Your abdominal area has several layers of muscles made up of muscle cells with a layer of fat cells on top.  If you would like to shed some of your abdominal fat, you will have to create the calorie deficit needed to empty some of these fat cells and decrease their size.  However, you can’t pick which fat cell your body will use as fuel.  In my experience, losing body fat is like taking off a wetsuit – you remain exactly the same shape - just a smaller version.  So yes, you would lose fat from your abdominal area, but you would also lose it from everywhere else (which is why your wedding ring gets looser even though you have done absolutely no finger exercises!).


Supposing you tone the muscle under it.  Surely my body will then know which fat cells I want it to use?

Sadly no.  You can tone your abdominal muscle cells in a variety of ways, one of which is Pilates. However, this will not guide your body into emptying these specific fat cells first.  (How odd would that look?  Think of someone with a six-pack and imagine them with wobbly arms and legs - it just doesn’t make sense!).

My friend did Pilates and she told me she lost fat from her tummy

Pilates has many benefits.  It is amazing for body awareness, core strength, overall balance, posture and injury prevention.  The chances are that your friend embarked on her Pilates journey as part of an overall positive lifestyle change.  She will have learnt about different muscles in her abdomen (transverse abdominis) and will
have become more aware of how and when to switch it on.  She will have also become more aware of her own posture and where her ideal posture is.  She will have begun to stand with better posture, walk with better posture and go about her daily tasks in better posture.  This will all contribute to her looking and feeling better, especially if accompanied with some lifestyle or dietary changes.

She may feel that Pilates has made her lose fat from her tummy when actually, because she can now activate her core and engage abdominal muscles she didn’t know she had, it only appears that she has lost abdominal fat.  Congratulations to her if she has lost some body fat.  It takes hard work and commitment to a healthy lifestyle to do this so she has done well.  I am certain the fat she lost isn’t just from her abdomen and isn’t just due to Pilates, but Pilates will have helped her walk with confidence in the correct posture and attending classes will have helped her stay committed to her new lifestyle.

Written by Heather Oakes

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