Not gonna lie: If I’m short on time at the gym, I’ll pick an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill over abs-torching moves any day of the week (looking at you, bicycle crunches). If you can relate, then prepare to learn a compelling new reason why you might want to prioritize those planks. Science shows that taking the time to strengthen your core might be one major way to keep your stress levels in check.
The research, which was published in 2016 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was spearheaded by a team of neuroscientists who discovered that the brain and the adrenal medulla (a part of your adrenal glands that is partially in charge of your stress response) interacted in a far more complex way than was previously believed, reports The Atlantic.
The details of their findings go deep into physiology, so bear with me here: Basically, the primary cortex portion of your brain (or M1 for short) contains a map of your entire body including regions like your legs, arms, face, and your axial muscles (AKA, the core). To the research team’s surprise, they discovered a large number of neurons in the M1 that controlled the adrenal medulla. Plus, most of said neurons were located in the axial muscle region of the M1. Stated plainly: “Well, lo and behold, core muscles have an impact on stress,” says Peter Strick, PhD, a professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. Enough said.
“Well, lo and behold, core muscles have an impact on stress.” —Peter Stick, PhD, professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute
While discussing the study in a recent episode of her podcast, Lara Heimann, a yoga teacher and physical therapist, pointed out that you can see evidence of this phenomena in the everyday movements of those around you. “When you see someone who is stressed out or depressed, you notice all their body changes. The posture changes. And when you stand up straight it has an effect on how you feel and express yourself,” she explains. Dr. Strick agrees, adding, “And I suspect that if you activate core muscles inappropriately with poor posture, that’s going to have an impact on stress.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to try just about any #wellnesshack that might diminish my daily bout of stress. Burpees, flutter kicks, and hollow body holds, here I come.
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