Pilates Can Make You Smarter

Learning a new activity provides effective brain training, notes  Heidi Johansen Berg and her colleagues from the University of Oxford. The results of their studies indicate that learning new activities increases the density of white matter in the brain.  These fibers facilitate neuron communication.  Inactive neurons eventually die off without benefiting your brain, so white matter density plays a key role in brain power.

Learning a new fitness activity engages the brain whilst working your body. The researchers note that mindless fitness activities, such as treadmill running or doing the same yoga sequence each week, do not really benefit your brain’s functioning.  Anne Bishop, a Pilates instructor and researcher,  explains that learning a new movement or a new modification in a Pilates routine provides a simultaneous mental and physical challenge, which benefits both body and brain.

Pilates Improved Your Posture: Improved Posture Increases Confidence

In a series on TED Talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy discussed the effects of postural alignment on self confidence. Cuddy’s research studies focus on body language and its effects on body chemistry. Her research team placed specific emphasis on body language and the  levels of testosterone and cortisol in the brain. The team conducted a study involving two groups of people, all of whom were about to experience high pressure job interviews.

The researchers told Group one to sit in a chair, at a table and assume a submissive posture. This alignment involved a downward head position, with shoulders slouched forward, legs crossed and arms held tightly to the body. They held these positions for two minutes, and then proceeded to the interview. Group two used the exact opposite body alignment. They spent two minutes in  dominant or “power” positions, with their legs outstretched, shoulders back, chin up and smiling.

Following the completion of all the interviews, all the interviews, the interviewers  — who were not informed about the purpose of the study –  unanimously ranked the folks from  the dominant posture group higher than the submissive alignment group.

Aside from the interviewers response to the candidates, Cuddy’s research showed a direct correlation between posture and brain chemistry.  Higher testosterone levels correspond to feelings of confidence. High levels of cortisol relate directly to experiencing high levels of stress. “Power” postures increase the body’s production of testosterone, and decrease cortisol. Submissive postures increase cortisol production and decrease testosterone.

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