Pilates Method for Women's Health: Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015 Dec;96(12):2231-42. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2015.04.005. Epub 2015 Apr 23.


Objective: To critically analyze the benefits of Pilates on health outcomes in women.

Data sources: CINAHL, MEDLINE, PubMed, Science Direct, SPORTDiscus, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Web of Science.

Study selection: Databases were searched using the terms Pilates and Pilates Method. Published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included if they comprised female participants with a health condition and a health outcome was measured, Pilates needed to be administered, and the article was published in English in a peer-reviewed journal from 1980 to July 2014.

Data extraction: Two authors independently applied the inclusion criteria to potential studies. Methodological quality was assessed using the PEDro scale. A best-evidence grading system was used to determine the strength of the evidence.

Data synthesis: Thirteen studies met the inclusion criteria. PEDro scale values ranged from 3 to 7 (mean, 4.5; median, 4.0), indicating a relatively low quality overall. In this sample, Pilates for breast cancer was most often trialed (n=2). The most frequent health outcomes investigated were pain (n=4), quality of life (n=4), and lower extremity endurance (n=2), with mixed results. Emerging evidence was found for reducing pain and improving quality of life and lower extremity endurance.

Conclusions: There is a paucity of evidence on Pilates for improving women's health during pregnancy or for conditions including breast cancer, obesity, or low back pain. Further high-quality RCTs are warranted to determine the effectiveness of Pilates for improving women's health outcomes.

Keywords: Pilates-based exercises; Rehabilitation; Review; Women's health.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Data Accuracy
  • Exercise Movement Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Women's Health*