Scientists prove core strengthening directly impacts stress

Posted on March 5, 2024

Athletic woman's stomach

For those who need scientific proof to truly believe practicing yoga and Pilates is good for your health, one neuroscientist, professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute Peter Strick, may have found the answer. Although previously the connections between the brain and the adrenal glands were believed to be limited, new findings suggest highly complex and direct links that have persuaded Professor Strick to take up Pilates.

The stress response is stimulated by the adrenal glands, which release adrenaline into the blood system when fight or flight is required. Most days our stress responses are ticking over, rather than alerting fight or flight, and if we can turn off that “background hum” of stress, we relax.

It was believed that a couple of pathways from the brain’s cortex were what set the adrenal glands off, but if it was just these top level cognitive parts of the brain, why would body movement help decrease stress levels?

It has been discovered that the connections between the brain and the adrenal medulla are more complex than previously understood, and connect primary sensory and motor cortices to our stress responses.

Using the natural journey of rabies, scientists could map better the connections of the organs to the central nervous system to neurons (brain) and experimented by infecting the adrenal glands.

They discovered that the motor areas in the brain were linked with the adrenal glands. And also that “In the primary motor cortex of the brain, there’s a map of the human body—areas that correspond to the face, arm, and leg area, as well as a region that controls the axial body muscles (known to many people now as “the core”).”

They found that neurons in the primary motor cortex could control the adrenal medulla, and most of those neurons are in the axial muscle part of the cortex.

This is the evidence you’ve been looking for. That axial control, or core strengthening, has a direct impact on stress.

Associate professor of neuroscience at Columbia University, Randy Bruno, specializes in sensory neuroscience and investigating further he found some primary somatosensory cortex areas also had connections to the adrenal medulla, which explained why certain sensations can also be relaxing (or stressful).

The findings shed new light on many other elements like psychosomatic illnesses and even unexpected deaths. “How we move, think, and feel have an impact on the stress response through real neural connections,” says Professor Strick.

Now Professor Strick practices Pilates.

Check out when to join Flex’s Ab Blast Pilates Allegro/Mat Combo classes here. These are the classes Heather calls “game changers”, which sculpt your abs, flatten your tummy and whittle in your waist. Oh, and you’ll feel energised yet wonderfully relaxed by the end too.

This information was taken from an article that published in The Atlantic, written by James Hamblin. To read the full article, click here.

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