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posted: 4/29/2013 6:00 AM

Your health: The ballet approach

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  • A new DVD promises to give you a body of a ballerina through a variety of ballet, dance and yoga exercises.

    A new DVD promises to give you a body of a ballerina through a variety of ballet, dance and yoga exercises.


Long and lean

Leah Sarago's "Ballet Body" DVD series combines ballet, dance, Pilates and yoga movements for workouts that promise to build full-body strength.

The upper body, lower body and core workouts are suitable for all fitness levels, according to Sarago, who leads participants through increasingly challenging progressions. Each workout uses minimal equipment: only a mat for the core workout, a mat and chair for the lower body, and a mat with light hand weights for the upper-body workout.

The DVDs, which target women, make familiar promises of results such as a "bikini-ready belly" and "bulk-free" muscle definition. The ballet-inspired movements, which include pliť squats and arabesque pushups, are intended to sculpt "longer and leaner" muscles. (It's worth noting that muscle is technically a lean tissue with a fixed length. While you can stretch muscles, increase flexibility and improve posture, the length of a muscle doesn't change.)

Still, the workouts are a low-impact, equipment-free way to build strength and break a sweat.

Fragile memory?

Many of us hold on to memories as though they were security blankets. Recollections of whom we've met, what we've seen and how we've felt connect us to one another and play a large part in how we define ourselves. And yet, these memories may be less accurate than we believe, according to a new book.

In "Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts," author Charles Fernyhough, a psychologist who teaches at Durham University in England, shows that our memories are fragile and quite mutable.

"The truth is that autobiographical memories are not possessions that you either have or do not have. They are mental constructions, created in the present moment, according to the demands of the present," Fernyhough writes.

Weaving scientific research from psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology, Fernyhough explains that our brains don't record experiences as cameras do; rather, we store key elements, then reconstruct the experiences when we need them.

"This reconstructive nature of memory can make it unreliable," he explains. "The information from which an autobiographical memory is constructed may be more or less accurately stored, but it needs to be integrated according to the demands of the present moment, and errors and distortions can creep in at every stage."

The result, he says, "may be vivid and convincing, but vividness does not guarantee accuracy."

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