Pilates and Cardiac Rehabilitation

November 29, 2021 by Lazer Brody

What I love about Pilates is its requirement of steady and controlled breathing. It’s gentle and anyone can do it, too. As a result, it’s my go-for choice for cardiac rehab exercise.


But don’t be fooled. Pilates is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It builds power. How? The Joseph Pilates concept of “contrology” is the exercise art of coordinated body-mind-spirit development through natural movements. As such, Pilates moderates the strain and jerkiness of aerobic and resistance exercise routines such as sprinting, weightlifting and plyometrics. Instead, Pilates incorporates the calm, control and concentration that characterize the eastern approach to exercise, like Yoga and Tai Chi. So, the result is the best of both worlds:  Strength development and coordination enhanced with power and grace.


The benefits of Pilates are enormous in recovering from atrial fibrillation. Experimenting on myself with careful monitoring, I compared the result of an intensive 30-minute Pilates routine that included 26 exercises to a resistance routine that included 4 circuits of deadlifts, goblet squats, renegade pushups and weighted lunges. I performed each exercise at weights that enabled me to do ten reps. This helped me to avoid straining my heart and pushing myself into anaerobic mode. In addition to the superior overall post-workout feeling of the Pilates routine, the results – which repeated themselves several times, were dramatic as we see in the following table:

Parameter Pilates Resistance Routine
Total Time[1] 30 minutes 30 minutes
Kcal burned 158 256
HR (heart-rate) Average 98 (65% of Max) 123 (82% of Max)
HR (heart-rate) Max 134 (90% of Max) 162 (108% of Max)
In/Out zone[2] (minutes) 28 / 2 5 / 25
Gentle, but Effective

The above table clearly shows how the Pilates routine was so much gentler to my body, yet without sacrificing training effectiveness. After the Pilates routine, my core felt stronger and my posture dramatically improved. In addition, I felt more invigorated than after the resistance routine. With Pilates, there’s virtually no chance of over-training. Therefore, it’s a solution to the dangerous athletic evil inclination of many peak-performance-seeking athletes, because it’s easier on the body. Consequently, I would surely recommend Pilates as the prime and preferred form of exercise in any cardiac rehabilitation program.

Even if your heart is 100% healthy, do yourself a favor and enroll in a Pilates course. It will do wonders for your posture and your core strength, and it’s gentle on the body. As a result, you won’t burn as many calories as you do in high-intensity training, but your injury level will drop to zilch.


Before embarking on any new exercise venture, especially when recovering from a cardiac episode, consult your physician. My blessings for your good health!


[1] Includes warmup and cooldown for resistance routine; warmup and cooldown were an intrinsic part of Pilates routine

[2] The InZone = my target zone of 55-80% HR Max, OutZone = >80% HR Max (HR Max = 220-Age, in my case=150 bpm)

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