I get asked quite regularly: 'how often should I do Pilates?' I think that it depends on what kind of results you are looking for. In a nutshell, Pilates can be practiced every day.
Let's take it back to Joe's times!
Joseph Hubertus Pilates recommended doing his discipline 3 times a week. With Joe you had to sign up to come to his Contrology gymnasium 3 times weekly for a duration of 3 months. The guy meant business! Joe Pilates knew that to achieving consistent results would require significant work and dedication. His famous quote out of his then marketing leaflet, that is used just about everywhere today, is:
"In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you’ll be on your way to having a whole new body."
It is important to put that statement into some context. In his studio, training always consisted of using all or some of the equipment, based & selected on the particular students needs. The Universal Reformer, Cadillac, various chairs, different shape & size barrels, Pedi-pull, Foot corrector and other gizmos were all lined up. Mat was usually taught to students & given to take away as homework.
As I learned from reading & hearing seasoned teachers stories, at the start you got some individual instruction to set you up. You were then off training by yourself, but never completely without supervision. Apprentices & teachers supervised the gym floor, correcting and assisting when needed. Self-sufficiency was encouraged - you were to memorize your sequence & set ups. Photos and lists of exercises were at hand to help you remember what came next. After some time, you were given some individual attention again to refresh & build up on your practice. Some students took more Private Sessions than others. So you see, his 10 sessions really gave you good bang for your buck!
I completely agree with Hubertus, 3 times a week for any decent exercise routine is a great recommendation. Enter real life. How often you should do Pilates is really up to you, your commitments & priorities. If you are very active, then 1-2 Pilates sessions a week will enhance what you are already doing.
From my personal observations, after working with students over the years I can add the following, keep in mind what results you would like:
1 session per week consistently for maintenance, alongside other activities, is great. 1 session will aid recovery from a specific injury, it will help & educate you in further prevention of injuries. You will get great stress relief, but please do not look for a six pack or fast results. Flexibility & strength will improve incrementally, layer by layer. Other activities, homework & additional classes are highly advised.
2 sessions per week consistently will give you subsequent big changes in strength, stability, mobility, flexibility - it will aid performance. 2 sessions per week will also help you tackle specific injuries & movement restrictions better - deeper more profound work.
3 sessions per week consistently - here the Pilates promise comes to life - optimal Pilates results - you get a transformed body! I am not promising a whole new surgically enhanced you. We are talking about visible changes in how you carry yourself and how your clothes sit on you. It will carry over into performing daily tasks and activities with more efficiency. You will notice significant improvements in posture, mobility, strength and flexibility. Additional benefits include improved mental concentration & control.
Good instruction is worth taking the time and expense to pursue, but we understand that time and funds are not infinite. If you find that committing to three Pilates sessions per week is not for you, we have some suggestions that our clients have found to be helpful to keep you in great form, week on week.
Do daily homework, it will make a huge difference. Ask your teacher to give you specific Mat exercises as homework at your next Private session.
If you do group classes, with practice in class & the help of a book you can also memorize Classical Mat Intermediate sequences and do it at home or anywhere.
Another idea is, to pick a calendar month or 2 once a year, where you gift your dear self more Pilates then usual. To mimic Joe's gymnasium, rotate your practice with as much variety as possible - add Mat, Tower Trios, Duets & or Privates to boost results & reset the system that is your body & mind.
And remember, Pilates doesn’t have to be your only exercise. Commit to movement everyday - walking, cycling, weights, swimming, hiking, dancing. Do what you love, you name it! Pilates just happens to be a very fun and effective way of doing it!