About a year and a half ago, Sivan Tayer, a 20-year-old college student from Orlando, changed the way she works out. She had thought the best way to get the results she wanted was lifting heavy in the gym, burning out her muscles to the absolute max. But it didn’t work for her.
“After a few months to a year of doing this—I’m sure other women can relate—my hunger cues, cortisol levels, body, and looks were not on point,” she tells Glamour.
But then she found a new workout.
“I decided to sign up for Pilates, and I’ve never felt better,” she says.
You may have heard this before, maybe from your friend who is always on the latest trends or that influencer you devotedly follow. And it’s not just your circle. All the hot girls are doing Pilates right now.
Everywhere you turn, it seems a new It girl, from celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid, and Sofia Richie to the normal trendsetters in everyday life, are putting down their weights, hanging up their cycling shoes, and suddenly swearing that their bodies have never looked better since they became full-throated devotees to the Reformer.
Workout trends are cyclical and seem to bend to the wind, almost at random and virtually overnight. For many years it seemed every young woman was espousing the virtues of yoga, insisting they had found a higher plane of mental acuity by spending an hour in a heated room chanting and bending. Then it seemed everyone switched over to the gym, lifting heavy weights and preaching the virtues of muscle-mass building diets like keto and paleo. Barre had a moment, as did Soul Cycle. And of course, once COVID hit, we all became slaves to the Peloton.
And look, yes, we know Pilates has been around for a long time (actually, since the 1920s) and has never stopped being a popular exercise. However, it’s undeniable that it is currently having a major resurgence. This new embrace of Pilates among young women has a different flavor. Because it’s not just about embracing the exercise itself; it’s also about the subtle messages that being into the discipline telegraphs. Many young Pilates enthusiasts preach its virtues not only for the results they see on their bodies, but the ethos they want to project to the world.
To them, being into Pilates is coded as being “feminine,” being lithe and subtly strong, and being a well-rounded woman. It’s a part of the larger soft-girl trend, an online movement of mostly young women who are embracing what they call traditionally feminine pursuits like homemaking and prioritizing leisure over chasing career or status.
Trying to hustle your way up the corporate ladder is, for some young women, so last decade. Now they aspire to spend their days perfecting their Pilates form, tending to their skin, and relishing traditional homemaking tasks. But is this movement a defiant act of self-actualization or a backward slide into patriarchal norms?
And if you’re a soft girl, you’re probably also doing Pilates. In the collective online consciousness, the workout has come to be a symbol of being a woman who doesn’t worry about pushing herself to the limits, but is focused on a “softer” form of exercise that can almost double as self-care (of course, they are almost universally extremely thin).
Online, they refer to themselves as Pink Pilates Princesses, a title that oozes with girlish charm. For adherents, it’s not a workout; it’s a lifestyle.
“Being a Pink Pilates Princess is all about romanticizing living a healthy lifestyle while still embracing my femininity,” Ashley Noelle, a 25-year-old wellness influencer, tells Glamour. “I love how I can feel so soft yet so strong at the same time.”
On her TikTok account, Noelle posts videos of her PPP lifestyle, and the aesthetics and accessories are given just as much, if not more, consideration as what Pilates class actually entails. Her socks match her mat (of course they are pink), and her skin-tight spandex are made just as much to be admired as they to be sweated in.
This online popularity of the workout is bearing out in real-life results. A survey conducted by the Australia-based Lifespan Fitness company recently found that Reformer Pilates was the most-searched-for fitness trend on TikTok, with 238,400 monthly searches for the term globally and 27.4 million views of associated videos. In a press release, the company declared it to be the “hottest fitness trend” of 2023, even hotter than the so-called hot-girl walk.
And those who work in the Pilates industry are loving it.
“I think Pilates is very much so having a moment right now, which is amazing for us,” Amanda Lensak, the studio manager of the West Village, NYC, location of the national chain Club Pilates, tells Glamour.
Though it was once stigmatized as being a “girly” workout—and therefore assumed to be less hardcore and thus less impactful—Lensak has observed that pejorative suddenly be embraced as a positive. Now, she says, she has seen clients flood into her studio who are drawn to the workout because it is considered feminine. One of the biggest recent events that she thinks drew women to her studio is the press around the Barbie movie, after star Margot Robbie credited Pilates with helping her get in shape for the role.
“It’s the It girl thing right now,” she says. “I think people are trying to tap into the less high-impact workouts and focus more on that low-impact toning and sculpting. And it’s also really great for hormone health as well, which has become a really big trend.”
Sarah Brooks has been teaching Pilates for years and now owns her own studio in Manhattan. She used to have to constantly explain to people that no, she didn’t teach yoga, and yes, it is different. Now, she says, her clientele is exploding.
“It’s kind of having the moment yoga had back in the day, where there was one studio in every block,” she tells Glamour, adding, “It’s really blown up, which makes me really happy because I’m happy to see that people are really understanding the value of it.”
But is Pilates, and the PPP aesthetic, here to stay, or a passing fad? For devotees, the proof is in the results. Eliza Millerd recently left her job as a kindergarten teacher to become a Pilates instructor full-time and often posts videos of her routines on TikTok. She has been blown away by how many people watch her videos online.
“It’s an exciting time to be a Pilates instructor,” she tells Glamour. “Pilates has differently taken storm as the new trendy form of exercise, but I think a quality class speaks for itself. It’s low-impact, can still increase the heart rate, have your muscles burning, but at the same time allow individuals to connect to their feminine side. As someone who used to enjoy dancing as a child, it feels like my matured version of that.”
But Millerd thinks that the peak is still to come.
“I’ve noticed many people from around the world commenting on my videos asking to explain what Pilates is and how it differs from yoga,” she says. “I definitely think Pilates is growing. It hasn’t reached everyone yet.”
Stephanie McNeal is a senior editor at Glamour and the author of Swipe Up for More! Inside the Unfiltered Lives of Influencers.
In Your Pilates Era
Pilates has had a massive resurgence and, if you've been interested in giving it a try, here's all the information you need before your first class.
Originally Appeared on Glamour