Can Pilates Improve Your Brain Function?

| Human Body, Neuro health, Pain |

Hello and welcome to my blog on Pilates and your brain

Brain endurance training (BET) is gaining popularity and we hear a lot about the mind-body connection and how important it is.  Sadly, in some exercise classes so much focus is put on the physical body, we forget about the huge brain training benefits exercises like Pilates offer. Your brain controls everything in your body, including how much pleasure or  pain you feel, in a nutshell to have a good life you need a good brain.  With conditions like dementia, chronic pain and depression on the rise, looking after your brain is more important than ever.

Even though my background is biochemistry and there are heaps of ways to improve your brain with making the correct dietary and supplement choices, today’s blog is how movement, in particular Pilates can help you keep your brain healthy, by providing something it needs to function and develop, which is stimulation.

Neurology 101

A brain basically has three primary tasks.

First of all, it has to receive input, Basically what I mean by that, I have eyes, skin, muscles, tendons, joints, inner ear, etc your whole body is sending input to the brain. Job number one is to receive input.

The quality of that input is incredibly important. Just like we would think about with the computer. If you’re trying to write an email, and you’re not paying any attention to the keys that you’re pressing, you’re giving a lot of input,but it won’t give you the end result that you’re looking for. We’ve got to have good input, second task of the brain, is to receive all that input and interpret it.

Then, we go to the third thing that your brain or body, nervous system, however you want to think about it, has to do which is create, an output. An output is all about muscles and reflexes, and visceral responses, and heart function, and blood pressure, but a lot of the time it is movement, which is key to doing a Pilates class.

A whirlwind tour of the brain and Pilates.

A tremendous amount of your brain space and your body design is oriented toward helping you understand your environment through what you feel and what you sense. This is called sensory information. If you reach out and touch something you need to know if it’s a hot oven or a cat. Your brain always needs to know exactly where your joints are in space all the time, so it can move them with the correct force and speed, in the right direction at the right time. This is called proprioception or body awareness. If your brain and joints don’t communicate properly,  your brain won’t allow you to move as well as you could. This means you will be weaker, stiffer, slower and more likely to get an injury.

‘Sensory before motor’ – you need to be able to feel it before you can move it.

The part of the brain which receives incoming sensory information is the parietal lobe, there are two, left and right side. This input can be hot, cold, rough, smooth, sharp dull, vibration, light touch / fine touch or about your location. The parietal lobe decodes the information and then works out what it means. The parietal lobe processes spatial sense of self, body image and navigation, but it also deals with information from the eyes.

Parietal Lobe Sara Pugh

In a Pilates class there is a plethora of equipment to stimulate your parietal lobe such as soft balls, foam rollers, spikey balls, Oovs, bands, different textured mats, Reformers and more. The act of stimulating the skin by moving/rolling round on the floor in a class is also and excellent way to stimulate the parietal lobe.

Frontal Lobe Sara Pugh Pilates

The frontal lobe or neo cortex is where your personality and consciousness resides, and is the ‘King’ or ‘CEO’ of the brain. The frontal lobe has eight primary functional areas, but we will just mention one for now. The motor cortex is an area of the frontal lobe and its job is planning, initiating and performing voluntary movement, which of course will have to work in an exercise class. The motor cortex uses the corticospinal tract to send the messages to the muscles to tell them when and how to move. Learning new movements or exercises is great for your brain as the nervous system loves novelty.

cerebellum Sara Pugh

The cerebellum is the little brain behind the brain and there are two, left and right. The cerebellum is an integration centre or a switchboard. It takes in lot of information, ignores the irrelevant  input, simplifies the useful information and passes it on to other parts of the brain.

The cerebellum is involved in  the ABC of movement, which is accuracy, balance and coordination. This ABC of movement is everything, arms, legs, spine, eyes and tongue. It is involved in everything from eye movements and speech  to playing sports and musical instruments.

The cerebellum plays a key role in good posture and gait, as well as  learning how to do a skill, movement or task as it compares desired movement with actual movement.As the cerebellum is involved in every movement you make you will successfully give it a good work out in a Pilates class. The cerebellum also thrives on novelty, which is why in my opinion it is a good idea to try out a variety of Pilates classes, teachers, equipment and styles, so that you don’t get stuck in ‘the same old routine’, your brain will thank you for it!

Pilates class Sara Pugh

Some students enjoying their Pilates class

Thank you for reading !

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions



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