New research suggests that thinking about getting up to exercise could build actual strength, without any actual exercise.
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To demonstrate just how powerful the mind is, researchers at Ohio University put a total of 29 adults in wrist casts to immobilize them and purposefully weaken their muscles. One set of participants were instructed to sit still and intensely imagine exercising for 11 minutes, five days a week. The other set of the study’s participants weren’t given any specific instructions. At the end of the four-week study, the mental-exercisers were two times stronger than the rest. Talk about mind over matter!
The studies findings suggest that while imagining yourself moving might not sculpt abs our burn enough calories to help you lose weight, it could enhance the connection between your brain and muscles, which contributes to overall strength.
“What our study suggests is that imagery exercises could be a valuable tool to prevent or slow muscles from becoming weaker when a health problem limits or restricts a person’s mobility,” study author Brian Clark, a professor of physiology and neuroscience at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, said in a press release.
But don’t cancel your gym membership just yet. Mental exercise “is not likely to be as effective as actual exercise because you would not get the same benefit applied to the actual muscle,” Clark says. So while you can’t exactly switch up your exercise routine for mental exercising, if there is a chance you are incapable of bench presses one day, thinking about moving your muscles can also do the trick.