When the newly rekindled Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber were spotted leaving a Los Angeles fitness studio together earlier this week—all sweaty and glowy—the Internet had many questions. What does this mean? Are they officially back together? How does one manage to look so damn chic after a sweat session?
Also: what is heated Pilates, the workout that People reported the duo tackled together?
Shannon Nadj, founder of the West Hollywood studio Hot Pilates that Jelena attended, tells SELF that her 60-minute classes are essentially a classic Pilates mat workout—but in a 95-degree room with music. She founded the studio in 2014 after spontaneously doing a mini Pilates routine in the steam room one day and realizing that adding heat—and a killer playlist—could amp up the intensity and fun of classical Pilates.
“I never felt like a traditional Pilates mat class gave me my full workout for the day,” says Nadj. “I wanted to create a Pilates mat class that felt intense enough that you didn’t feel the need to do a separate cardio workout later.”
According to Nadj, Hot Pilates attracts a clientele of celebrities and models. Due to privacy policies, she can’t discuss specific clients, but “there are a lot of men, including retired professional athletes, that come in too.”
Thanks to a recent increase in demand, Nadj says she plans to open up additional Hot Pilates studios elsewhere in California and in NYC within the next year.
But Hot Pilates isn’t the first—or the only—place to offer the heated Pilates classes. And just like there are different styles of hot yoga (like Bikram and Moksha) and hot barre, there are different styles of hot pilates.
The Inferno Hot Pilates method, founded in Las Vegas in 2012 by Pilates guru Gabriella Walters, combines traditional Pilates moves with Tabata intervals (think: lunges, half burpees, mountain climbers and squats) for a 60-minute bootcamp-style class in a 95-degree room. Various yoga and Pilates studios across the country have adopted the method, including YO BK in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which began offering Inferno Hot Pilates classes in May 2016.
“We’re like the SoulCycle of Pilates,” says Kate Davies, founder of YO BK. “We create a total party environment with a disco ball, black out room, and hip hop music.” YO BK offers fifteen Inferno Hot Pilates classes a week, and with just 36 spots per class, spots quickly—and regularly—fill up.
There are a few reasons that these heated Pilates classes are gaining in popularity, say Nadj and Davies, and they center on the benefits that this particular type of workout may offer.
For starters, it gets you really sweaty, really fast. “The sweat element has become very popular,” says Nadj. “My clients used to hate getting so sweaty, but now it’s become something people want—they want to feel like they worked out intensely.”
The added heat also decreases the amount of warm-up time needed—“When you walk into a heated room, your muscles warm up [quickly],” says Nadj.
While there are no studies just yet on the benefits of heated Pilates (and studies about hot yoga are still preliminary and limited), the benefits of heat exposure in general (from a sauna or a hot bath, for example) are well documented, says Hirofumi Tanaka, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at The University of Texas at Austin. “Heat exposure can increase your muscle and joint function, which can increase your flexibility—and it can also lower your blood pressure.” (This is also part of the reason you're told to do a warm-up before exercise—it literally warms up your body to prepare your muscles and joints for activity.)
Since we know that exercise is good—and heat exposure is good—could we gain additional benefits by combining them? “In theory, yes,” says Tanaka. “But there’s not any evidence just yet that supports that.”
Both exercise and heat exposure stress your heart, Tanaka explains. When you’re hot, your heart has to work harder to produce the sweat that cools you off. “So in theory, doing heated exercise—like hot Pilates—could help you get fit faster,” he says, because your heart is forced to work harder and faster.
But we can’t prove this just yet—and it comes with one big caveat: “If you have a compromised cardiovascular system (i.e. any existing or underlying heart conditions), doing heated exercise could potentially be harmful,” says Tanaka.
The bottom line: Selena and Justin’s trendy new couples workout may soon be available near you, and and as long as you keep the potential health risks in mind, it’s probably worth an (extremely sweaty) try.