Pilates vs. Yoga for Seniors

Pilates and yoga both are the same in many ways: both are low-impact exercises and perform on a mat. Also, both are forms of mind-body exercises, i.e., beneficial for stress management, breath control, physical fitness, and maintain seniors’ mental health. However, they are different workouts. This article provides beneficial information on similarities and differences between yoga and Pilates for seniors and will help you choose the best for your body.

What Is Pilates?

The Pilates method was developed by a German physical trainer, Joseph Pilates. Pilates includes almost 500 aerobic and non-aerobic exercises that focus on the core. Each exercise also contains a specific breath technique followed by a rhythmic pattern. There are different types of Pilates based on the core goal, including flexibility, strength-training, better posture, stress reduction, etc.

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient Indian exercise consisting of body movements and the mind focusing on achieving spiritual mindfulness. The primary purpose of yoga is to create a connection between mind and body. Like Pilates, yoga comes into different styles, including ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga, yin yoga, and vinyasa yoga.

Both yoga and Pilates provide a wide range of benefits which are summarized in the below table:

Benefits of Pilates vs. Yoga

Pilates Yoga
Improve flexibility Improve flexibility
Better posture Improve strength and muscle tone
Better coordination Reduce stress
Improve overall muscle tone Better mind-body connection
Increase strength, especially core Weight loss
Relaxation Improve heart health
Reduce stress Injury protection
Weight loss Improve energy level
Injury prevention More efficient metabolism
Injury repair
Improve cardiovascular health

Similarities and Differences Between Pilates and Yoga

As mentioned above, Pilates and yoga are alike in many ways. Both exercises focus on breath, alignment, balance, strength and flexibility, i.e., both use the entire body (see also best balance exercise for seniors). Nonetheless, here we mention a brief breakdown of Pilates and yoga differences:

  • Pilates is a resistance workout. It has a mat routine, plus exercises that need to be done on specific Pilates machines. Strengthen the stomach, improve posture, stabilize and elongate the core, and increase overall balance and strength are the primary purpose of Pilates. In addition, Pilates is a bit more fast-paced than yoga.
  • The ultimate purpose of yoga is to build a connection between self-consciousness and universal consciousness using physical activities. It means that this exercise can improve emotional and spiritual health through mediation exercises and activities. The repetitive movements of yoga are therapeutic and increase the flexibility and strength of the body.

In general, the most remarkable difference between Pilates and yoga is the ultimate goal. It means that yoga helps you provide a meditative environment to promote your overall life quality, relieve stress and improve the body. On the contrary, Pilates forces you to increase body awareness and work from the core to have a stronger body.

Pilates Vs. yoga for seniors

Pilates vs. Yoga for Seniors: Which One Is Better?

It is revealed that both workouts benefit seniors. However, you should answer two questions if you are going to find the right fit for yourself:

  1. What is your ultimate goal?
  2. What is your starting point, physical or mental?

For example, if you have back pain or your job/sport requires a strong core or are inclined to a low-impact workout that highly challenges your muscles, Pilates will benefit you.

To combat age-related muscle loss or osteoarthritis in the elderly, Pilates will be a great way to strengthen both muscles and bones and a good choice for building muscles in seniors.

On the contrary, if your ultimate goal is a better mind-body connection, relaxation, and a higher degree of flexibility, yoga will suit you. Stiffness is another common problem in seniors with a sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activities. Sometimes seating for most of a day may cause stiffness in seniors, and the best way to relieve is yoga, especially restorative yoga.

However, to find which one is the best for your specific goals, read the rest of the article.

Yoga or Pilates for Lower Back Pain

Several studies on the effect of Pilates on relieving back pain show that different people at any age range who took part in a Pilates routine had less back pain. Based on the results, scientists recommend Pilates for people with chronic low back pain. Seniors also can try Pilates chair exercises to decrease their pain and strengthen their core from a seated position.

The scientific studies on yoga effectiveness on back pain have been revealed that Iyengar yoga in the short term had a considerable effect on treating chronic spinal pain. In addition, in another study, the authors also suggested that yoga can be used as an additional therapy for low-back pain.

Which Is Better for Arthritis Yoga or Pilates?

Both Pilates and yoga for seniors help arthritis. To be more exact, Pilates increases bone and joint strength, and yoga promotes flexibility through strengthen muscles surrounded the joints. In a study that physicians did in Oklahoma Medical Association, it has been revealed that yoga and meditation could significantly lower the pain in people who suffer from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. However, it’s essential to consult with your instructor to inform you about the exercises seniors should avoid.

Pilates Vs. yoga for seniors

Yoga or Pilates for Weight Loss

It has been said that both Pilates and yoga for seniors can help them to lose weight. The amount of calories you can burn during each of these workouts depends on the type of practice. The below table is based on the American Council of Exercise (ACE) report on the number of calories burnt after 50 minutes of each practice:

Calories Burned After Yoga and Pilates Exercises

Exercises Burned calories (kcal)
Hatha yoga 144
Power yoga 237
Vinyasa yoga* 540
Beginner Pilates 175
Advanced Pilates 254

*The measured calorie is after 1-hour practicing

So, if you are a beginner, Pilates will help you burn more calories and lose weight. It is worth mentioning that to lose weight safely as a senior, it’s better to work with a team consist of a doctor, nutritionist, and trainer to create an individualized plan for you. Don’t forget that yoga helps seniors lose weight too.

Pilates Vs. yoga for seniors

How Often Should You Do Yoga and Pilates?

A tough yoga practice usually takes two or three classes a week, plus practice specific yoga poses on your own when you feel full of stress and want some stress relief. Nonetheless, one class per week and a few sessions at home will still be great.

On the other hand, it’s recommended for Pilates beginners to participate in Pilates sessions once a week plus do some practices at home. For advanced Pilates users, it is suggested that do practice at least three times per week.


Yoga and Pilates share lots of similarities: both focus on the mind-body connection, both are low-impact exercises performed on a mat, strengthen body and muscle, and increase the life quality of seniors. Despite these similarities, the main difference between the two practices is “your ultimate goal,” i.e.,  do these exercises provide a meditative environment or do it from the core to have a stronger body? However, scientific research shows that both workouts can help seniors to improve life quality by decreasing back pain, relieving arthritis pain, losing weight and strengthen the body’s muscles and joints.

Use this article only as educational material. You must consult your doctor and/or specialist prior to using it. Read more about this disclaimer.

Source anahana womenshealthmag insider
You might also like
5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 months ago

Regular exercise is the healthiest habit a person can have. And as long as our bodies allow us, the form of the exercise should not matter. I was a runner for almost 20 years; I quitted when I became 45. I’ve been doing pilates for 17 years, I’m 62, and I’m in good shape, and I don’t get sick that often. My daughter practises yoga; she says it helps her relax and is a great physical activity. My point is, whether it’s yoga, pilates, swimming or walking in the neighbourhood, physical activity is a must for people of all ages.

2 months ago

It seems unbelievable that you can burn more than 500 calories doing vinyasa yoga in just 50 minutes! However, it seems challenging enough. I’ve never done vinyasa yoga; I just searched it on youtube, and, wow! I know that the reason for exercise is more than just burning extra calories, but is it late to start something like vinyasa at 54? 

2 months ago

My mother is 55, and she has mild depression. Her psychologist recommended that she participate in group exercises. I thought that yoga or pilates might be helpful for her. I’m not sure if it is a good idea or not. Does anyone have a similar experience?

2 months ago

I think in the end, it is a matter of preference. Even though some exercises are similar, I’ve always preferred pilates, and I don’t have a logical reason for it. I just like pilates better. But I agree that yoga is better for mental peace and relaxation.

2 months ago

As a senior with an ache in my back and bones, I prefer to try yoga. Because my doctor forbids me to do high-intensity sports activities and some sports which intense my pain. But I am too comfortable with yoga. Because it’s not a complex exercise, and I can free my body and spirit from stress and other nasty things.