One of the unavoidable parts of life is stress. Whether it stems from your career, your social life, or even your exercise program, stress can manifest itself in numerous ways. There are a plethora of ways to manage stress, but there’s one way that, until recently, was not even considered. That is through core strength.
For the purpose of this article, when I refer to “the core”, I’m referring to the axial skeleton and the musculature within it. Core strength is important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially within the realm of exercise. Adding to the importance of core strength is the role it plays in stress management. In response to stress, your body will produce the hormone commonly known as adrenaline. This is produced from the adrenal glands, which sit atop your kidneys like a hat. It was believed that your adrenal glands only had a few hierarchical connections to your brain, independent of muscular function. However, a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute discovered that there is much more happening.
The University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute made this discovery when they used Rabies to map out a monkey’s nervous system. They injected the Rabies directly into the adrenal glands of the monkeys. Rabies attaches itself to neurons and uses them like a road, replicating along them at a predictable rate. When the Rabies had finally run its course and reached the brain, the researchers were astonished. There were an abundance of neurons connecting the adrenal glands to the Primary Motor Cortex (the part of the brain responsible for skeletal muscular function).
What does this all mean? Well, look at activities such as Yoga and Pilates. These activities require the building and maintenance of core strength, while also allowing participants to relieve stress. For years, many believed the stress relieving effects of Yoga and Pilates stemmed from psychological sources (calming music, soft tones, etc.) With this new information, there may be some physiological benefit to Yoga and Pilates through the neural stimulation of the core.