Catie Miller, is a fitness trainer and the founder of Barre Series. Known for her fusion of barre with Pilates, her method goes beyond physical fitness, offering transformative mental benefits too. Intelligent and empathetic in her approach, her focus is on harmonising hormones, managing hormonal stress, and activating the brain's reward systems, while engaging sensory and motor circuits. Here, she shares six things she wishes everyone knew about keeping minds and bodies healthy – all without a punitive regimen in sight.

Exercise To Music – Rhythm Enhances Results

The neurological effects of dancing have garnered significant attention recently. According to Harvard Medical School, dance involves intricate mental coordination, with the synchronisation of music and movement activating the brain's reward centres and sensory-motor circuits. PET imaging studies have identified crucial brain regions involved in learning and performing dance, such as the motor cortex, somatosensory cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum. Dance's combination of physical and expressive elements positively alters brain function, offering benefits similar to those from other forms of physical exercise, such as improved memory and strengthened neuronal connections. Dance is a sophisticated fusion of movement and music that nurtures both the body and mind, making it an all-encompassing practice for enhanced well-being.

Catie Miller, founder of Barre Series

You Don't Have to Work Out Harder, Faster, or Longer for Better Results

The most sustainable workouts are those you enjoy. If you dislike running but force yourself onto the pavement or treadmill daily, the experience will be unpleasant and difficult to maintain. Enjoyment is crucial, but it's also important for a workout routine to include variety, incorporating different modes such as cardiovascular exercise, strength or resistance training, low-impact conditioning, and recovery. Many people mistakenly believe that intense cardio is the best way to lose weight, but strength training combined with low-impact movement is a more efficient and mindful approach. While cardio has its place, weightlifting and strength training help build lean muscle, boosting metabolism and aiding in fat burning. Additionally, an effective workout regime recognises the importance of quality sleep and rest. Without proper sleep, your body prioritises energy conservation over fitness or weight loss goals, focusing on recalibrating internal functions to sustain life.

Stress Can Be Beneficial

Did you know that stress can be beneficial and that, managed correctly, we can harness a healthy stress response? Hormetic stress, as described in Aging Research Reviews, refers to the ideal level of exposure to stressors, where stress becomes advantageous (Ramos et al., 2015). Underexposure leaves the body unchallenged, while overexposure can lead to health issues. Hormesis, an adaptive response to moderate stress, can be achieved through safe and effective exercise. Recent studies suggest that high-intensity, short-duration exercise is more effective than moderate-intensity continuous exercise in improving fitness. This type of exercise reduces oxidative stress and inflammation while enhancing insulin sensitivity.

Catie Miller, founder of Barre Series

Strength Training Reduces Body Fat, Increases Lean Muscle Mass, and Burns Calories More Efficiently

Strength training is a fundamental component of overall health and fitness for everyone.
Lean muscle mass naturally diminishes with age. Without efforts to replace the lost muscle, your body fat percentage will increase over time. Strength training helps preserve and enhance muscle mass at any age. Strength training may also help you:

  • Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

  • Manage your weight. Strength training can help manage or lose weight and increase metabolism to burn more calories.

  • Enhance your quality of life. Strength training may improve your ability to perform everyday activities, protect your joints from injury, and contribute to better balance, reducing the risk of falls and helping you maintain independence as you age.

  • Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can alleviate symptoms of many chronic conditions, such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes.

  • Sharpen your thinking skills. Some research suggests that regular strength training and aerobic exercise improve cognitive functions in older adults.

Movement Helps Manage Perimenopause and Menopause Symptoms

Regular exercise can significantly impact women experiencing perimenopause and menopause by helping manage hormonal changes and alleviate associated symptoms. The Barre Series method focuses on functional movement that includes strength training, low-impact cardiovascular exercise, and restorative movement. These exercises are crucial for maintaining muscle mass and overall body longevity. Barre draws from ballet and Pilates principles, making it a safe and highly effective workout. As Dr Federica Amati notes, ‘Movement during menopause is essential for supporting our bodies through metabolic changes. Barre helps maintain optimal muscle mass and regulate blood glucose by engaging the whole body in safe and accessible ways.’

Barre Workouts Significantly Impact the Nervous System

Barre practice holds immense potential for our nervous system and overall well-being. The precision and control required in each movement engage the muscles and stimulate the nervous system, promoting neural connectivity and enhancing proprioception—the body's awareness of its position in space. Flowing through sequences activates the parasympathetic nervous system, known as the ‘rest and digest’ response, which counteracts chronic stress. The rhythmic nature of barre movements, coupled with synchronised breathing, encourages relaxation and calm, further supporting nervous system balance.

The dynamic nature of barre, incorporating cardio elements through quick transitions and bursts of energy, benefits the nervous system. Cardiovascular exercise within barre improves mood, reduces anxiety, and enhances cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain and promoting the release of endorphins – feel-good chemicals that boost mood and reduce pain perception. Integrating cardio elements into barre practice strengthens the heart and lungs while supporting the nervous system in managing stress and promoting overall well-being.

Mindful movement practices like restorative barre and Pilates emphasise alignment, breath control, and deepening the mind-body connection, promoting relaxation and emotional balance. These practices strengthen our bodies and nourish our nervous systems, fostering overall well-being. Amid life's chaos, taking time for rest and reflection is essential, offering numerous benefits for both body and mind—it replenishes energy, revitalises spirits, and enhances creativity and clarity.

By Catie Miller