21 Incredible Benefits of Pilates if you Have an Autoimmune Disease

pilates benefits

I recently started taking classes at this new, hip place called Rowhouse. It’s like spin classes, where it’s dark and the music is loud and the instructor is preaching at you like you’re at an alter call, but you’re on a rowing machine instead of a bike.

Three years ago, I never would have stepped foot in a place like that – and I wasn’t sure if I ever would be able to again. This wasn’t an easy pill to swallow. I have always been athletic and a total gym-rat. Then, I had my son 8 years ago and a switch was flipped in my body. Two autoimmune diseases started wreaking havoc. This isn’t a new story – currently over 6 million women in American have been diagnosed with an invisible illness and that’s probably why you’re here.

Luckily, I found a great doctor. She was helpful and supportive when I wanted to try natural remedies – like my supplements for inflammation – and when I came in one day telling her that the chronic pain in my left shoulder and upper back was so severe, I thought there must be a tumor or something in there, she gave me some advice that has been transformative. She said, “Start reformer pilates right away. It’s expensive; but it’s that or you’re going to continue to lose strength from lack of activity and this pain in your shoulder will be all over your body.”

I took her advice, signed up for Club Pilates that week, started going and haven’t looked back since. A year ago, I wrote a post with 10 benefits of pilates. Since then, I’ve discovered even more.

Incredible Pilates Benefits:

pilates benefits

I tell you my personal story, because starting pilates has been one of the single most transformative things I have ever done for my health. Doing pilates 3-6x a week has allowed me to keep up with my kids, to go up and down the stairs whenever I need, to start incorporating more cardio workouts like Rowhouse, which I never thought I could do again.

I’ve even been able to add in light weight training, which used to throw my body into such a flare, I could barely move for 3 days.

While I personally think reformer pilates, or pilates done on a reformer machine, is one of the most healing, balancing things we can do for our bodies, mat pilates is also very powerful for core and spine strength. After all, Joseph Pilates himself said, “The pilates method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.”

Here are some of the many pilates benefits you’ll experience if you start a practice today:

1. Pilates increases core strength:

This one is pretty well-known, but here’s the thing: we need core strength for everything. And, as we get older, start sitting more, have kids (maybe even c-sections), we start losing this core strength rapidly. Cue the lower back pain, slower digestion and then stomach pain, and all sorts of bodily issues. Now, we are exposed – our bodies just an easy target for potential injury.

Core strength is key. I’ve seen professional athletes who are rehabilitating in pilates classes and they can barely do the exercises. They are shocked. We’re not; we’ve been doing this for years and we still shake and struggle with some of the moves. Over time, you build more and more strength and there is freedom in core strength. The more core strength you have, the more things your body can do. 

If you don’t live near a pilates studio or hate to work out around other people, check out my post with the best pilates reformers for your home gym, from affordable options to one that folds up and fits in a closet, and then use free pilates reformer videos on YouTube to guide you.

2. Pilates decreases back pain:

Back to my injury story. A few months after starting pilates, that nagging shoulder and back pain that I was icing and heating every single day was gone. Poof. Occasionally, it comes back like an unwelcomed guest. It’s one of those areas my body likes to attack itself. I just stay consistent with my pilates, drink some of my favorite turmeric smoothies, and it goes away again.

Pilates strengthens the spine and the back – which significantly reduces back pain over time. Make sure you’re dressed ready to move, though, so you don’t have leggings that restrict your movement or have details that dig into your back when you’re laying on the reformer. These are my all-time favorite leggings for pilates. They are super soft, flattering, and move with your body. For more suggestions, see my post with 7 best workout leggings for pilates here.

*Affiliate link used

3. Pilates improves your posture:

Lack of exercise coupled with lots of sitting and writing for work led me to developing pretty bad posture for the first time in my life. Pilates will improve your posture, because you will have to be in the right position to do the exercises. Over time, I’ve seen a big difference in my posture.

4. Pilates improves your range of motion:

There are so many rotation exercises that help stretch and balance your entire back, so you’ll have a better range of motion, too. I can remember having so much inflammation in my upper back, I wasn’t able to do certain stretches or exercises that I used to be able to do. Over time, pilates has helped my body heal and now I have a better range of motion.

Same goes for your hips and legs. Pilates really elongates and stretches the legs, while working the hip flexors. You need all of these muscles to be agile and strong as you age.

5. Pilates decreases your risk of injury:

The more fluid your joints and movements, the more range of motion you have in your body, the more strength you have in your core, back and muscles, the less likely you’ll be susceptible to injuries. Not only that, but your body will heal faster when you do get injured.

I go to pilates no matter what. If I’m in pain, I go. If I’m tired, I go. If I’m not feeling 100, I go. Because guess what – when you have an autoimmune disease, you are always in pain. But, sitting around is only going to make me feel worse. I go to pilates, I get an endorphin boost, I stretch and get things moving and remind my body what it’s supposed to be doing. I truly believe my pilates practice has helped protect my body from injury.

pilates benefits

6. Pilates lengthens your muscles:

Traditional weight lifting causes your muscles to bunch up, creating that buff bicep look. Hard cardio, like running, jostles all of your joints as you pound against the pavement. Pilates requires slow, controlled movement, with a focus on your breathe, while it lengthens and stretches the body. The result is a longer, leaner, more toned look.

I have definitely seen changes in my body. As a shorter person, I didn’t think I could ever really have a long and lean physique, and while I’ll never be able to transport my body into a woman that is 5’8, I can certainly make the most of what I’ve got. Pilates lengthens your muscles in a flattering way.

7. Pilates helps you learn to breathe:

Sure, we all breathe all the time, but how we breathe can really impact our focus, emotions, mental health and more. Breathwork is so important, it’s often used to help people control things like anxiety attacks and its used during meditation.

In pilates, the breathe is controlled with the movement. Body and breathe work together. This focus on the whole body is like a meditative practice. You’re breathing, you’re moving, and it’s all working in synergy. I find that it really helps me clear my head, just like meditating would, except I get my work out in, too. Win win.

8. Pilates improves your balance:

Pilates requires your body to act in balance. You aren’t working one side at a time, nor can you do the exercises with one side compensating for the other. Your body will have to be in balance or you’ll see it. For example, with legs in straps exercises, you’ll immediately see if your legs, hips and core are trying to use one side over the other. It forces you to focus and balance your muscle use. Over time, this creates a very balanced body throughout.

Before I started pilates, I was having some vertigo related to inflammation in my sinuses, head, etc. I found that pilates drastically improved the incidences of vertigo. I’ve since seen several women at the studio who have serious vertigo and they were recommended to pilates for the same reason. Balancing the body helps it work as it was designed.

9. Pilates reduces PMS and cramps:

Remember when I said I go to pilates no matter what? That is true even if Aunt Flo is here and causing problems. I have found that the slow exercises are something I can still do, even if I’m not feeling great, and doing a class usually helps reduce the aches and pains that come with that time of the month.

10. Pilates is great for pregnancy:

There’s been a lot of preggos at the studio lately and they are doing awesome. Pilates teachers are trained to make accommodations for all types of things, including pregnancy. One of the girls did classes all the way up until weeks before she gave birth. She told us that her doctor told her pilates was one of the best things she could do for her body throughout pregnancy and he’s even seen benefits with how birth goes.

I wish I had found pilates sooner and started it while pregnant.

pilates benefits

11. Pilates improves sport performance:

Like I mentioned earlier, thanks to pilates, I can now do pretty much anything I want. I even did some HIGH Fitness classes before Covid and was astounded at how well I was able to get through the classes. I’m not sure if I could’ve done those classes even before I started having autoimmune issues.

And, another story, after doing pilates for two years, I went to some gym classes that used weights to see how my body would do. It was my first time in one of the classes and the teacher kept coming to check on me, because I was new, and she would say, “Oh, you’re in perfect alignment,” or “Wow, you’re doing that exercises perfectly.” She asked me after class how I was able to do so well and I told her – it must be the pilates.

We see athletes in pilates all the time, whether to help recover from injury or to help balance the body and build core strength. Local competitive gymnasts show up from time to time, too. It works, people.

12. Pilates improves your mood:

Like any exercises, it’s so good for your mood and mental health. But, if you have an autoimmune disease or are in chronic pain, you are struggling with this every day. It’s hard to say, I’m going to live my best life, despite all of these physical issues I’m having. Being in chronic pain is so challenging.

Pilates gives you some of your power back. You’ll feel better, think more clearly and feel more in control of your body.

13. Pilates classes are small and private:

If you go to a pilates studio, or even a pilates reformer class at a gym, you’ll have a small, limited group of people there. Our classes max out at 12. That’s not very many people. The teachers learn your names, your injuries, and can tailor classes to each person, because there’s a small group.

If you feel lost in a gym, hate standing out in a big class, or just hate working out in front of people, pilates is going to be your jam. Or, like I mentioned before, invest in a pilates reformer for your home and get the benefits without leaving your house. Check out my post with the best pilates reformers for your home gym.

14. Pilates teachers are highly trained:

It’s amazing to me to hear the pilates teachers talk about the body the way that they do. They are trained to understand the body in a very different way from any trainer I’ve ever worked with. They understand what each exercise will do for the body, what it’ll work, how it should look and how the exercises work together for a full body, balanced workout.

15. Pilates students become friends:

I’ve never made friends at any gym I’ve been at. I’ve become friends with many women at my pilates classes. You’ll see the same people in your classes over and over. You’ll talk, get to know each other and build friendships. Then, when you don’t show up, they’ll ask you how you’re doing. They’ll be happy when they see you. There’s a community at pilates classes.

Sometimes, there’s a big influx or people leaving and coming and it’ll change the nature of the studio for awhile, but rest assured, in time, you’ll make more friends. It’s really nice to see how pilates helps people and this brings people together.

pilates benefits

16. Pilates is a no impact workout:

One of my FAVORITE parts of the pilates workout is that it is NO IMPACT!!! I cannot do impact workouts anymore. My body just says – no. Pilates has you lying down or standing while doing slow, controlled exercises. There is no jostling around, no joints banging against a machine or the ground.

The result is a much quicker recovery after your workout! You could do classes every day if you wanted to and a lot of people do.

17. Pilates improves circulation:

Just like dry brushing and lymphatic massage improve circulation, so does pilates. If you have an autoimmune disease, your body is not properly flushing out toxins from the body as readily as it should and anything you can do to improve circulation is key. Pilates really gets everything flowing and moving, which will help move things through the body.

18. Pilates decreases joint pain:

Another one of my favorite parts of pilates is how it reduces joint pain. I have seen such a significant change in my own life and continue to hear how it positively impacts other students, too.

The movement, circulation, rotation, and strengthening qualities of pilates will help decrease joint pain.

19. Pilates is relaxing:

Yup, I said it. A workout that is relaxing. Now, it’s not like the rest pose on yoga where you just lay there and everything is awesome. You are working. But because it’s slower and there is a pace to the workout, you go into sort of a mental trance with it and can just breathe, focus, move and relax.

Plus, they keep the classes dark and the music can range from really spa-like to more pop hits, but either way, you feel like you can really relax.

20. Pilates has a quicker recovery:

Part of the issue with working out when you have chronic pain is not the workout itself, but the 3-5 days of horrible pain as your muscles recovery. You will not have the same reaction to pilates. If you start in the easier classes, you might not have very. much additional recovery pain at all. Once you progress to the cardio, jump classes or the higher levels, you can expect some muscle soreness, but I’ve never had anything as bad as what I felt with traditional gym classes or workouts.

21. Pilates lets you lay down:

There it is! Thanks to the way that many exercises are done, you often get to lay down. I don’t know about you, but to get all these benefits, while being able to lay down for most of them, is exactly what I’m looking for. Don’t let this fool you into thinking you’re not working. Your body is active, your core is engaged and you are working – but you just don’t have to also struggle with holding your body up while you do it. Sure, some of the moves and exercises are also done standing, which helps with balance, too, but there are also exercises that are done lying down, like my favorite: feet in straps.


Did you ever think there could be so many benefits to pilates? I love it and my body loves it. Every time I think about the cost of the membership, I am reminded by all of the amazing ways it has improved my quality of life and so I don’t quit.

Have you tried pilates? Tell me your favorite part in the comments below.

Have a fabulous day,



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