Up your time
Three hours a week will bring the best results, says Pilates expert Lynne Robinson. "If you can't afford that, get a DVD or book to help you practise at home. Applying Pilates principles in everything you do helps, too, from how you sit at a computer to the way you stand in a queue."
For total fitness, you need to supplement Pilates with cardio work. "We've got strength and conditioning covered, but it doesn't get your heart rate up," Robinson says. "Cardio and Pilates go extremely well together: Pilates will help you move more efficiently in your chosen sport and it helps prevent injury."
Consider the alternative
Rather than on mats, Pilates can also be performed on apparatus, such as Reformers. "Although sessions are more expensive, using apparatus gives quicker results if you're after body toning and conditioning."
Don't neglect the breathing
Founder Joseph Pilates spent a lot of time studying eastern practices such as meditation, and mastering the breathing that goes with the movements is vital. "It cements the mind/body connection and brings control and focus, which are the keys to performing the movements perfectly."
Unlike cardio work, the slower, the better applies in Pilates. "Deep strength and endurance comes from performing the movements very slowly. Rushing through them will do you no good at all."
Shelve your competitive streak
"Bend the technique to suit your body, rather than bending your body to suit the technique," says Robinson. "It's not a competition, so ignore what your neighbour is doing and focus on performing movements to the best of your ability. Five quality repetitions are far more effective than 10 tired ones."