Thinking about exercise is basically a work-out

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  • Get fitter and stronger from the comfort of the sofa? Yes please.

    In what is pretty much the best news ever, researchers reckon that thinking about working-out is pretty much as effective as doing it. So, if you’ve been sitting around day-dreaming about winning an Olympic medal, then you’ve probably done your body a whole lot of good. No really, even sitting at your desk pretending that you’re going to go to the gym after work tonight rather than watching Netflix or going for a drink could be making you stronger.

    Why? Well it all starts with research from back in the 1800’s where scientists found that the body reacts to pictures of things in the same way that it reacts to the actual thing. This led to exploring the effects of visualisation, and sure enough, the human mind is so clever, a good visualisation can trick your body into creating the effects of the real thing.

    Whilst a lot of medical breakthroughs from the 1800’s has been chucked out the window (leeches, anyone?) this one seems to stand up to modern day scrutiny.

    How does it work? Well, Jim Davies, who wrote on the topic for Nautilus explained: ‘More recent studies, using modern brain imaging techniques, show that what distinguishes actual and imagined movements are the inhibitory signals sent from other parts of the brain to the motor system. That is, actual and imagined movements involve the same brain activity, but in the case of imagination, there’s another part of your brain that stops the message from reaching your muscles.’

    So, can you skip all physical activity for some bed-based mediation? Sadly not. According to Jim Davies, 20 minutes is about all you can manage for this kind of ‘work-out’. ‘Any less or more and the practice doesn’t stick as well—mental practice is a supplement, not an alternative. Exactly why is unclear, but it might have to do with the lack of feedback from the real world, or because people find it hard to concentrate for much longer than 20 minutes.’

    So, maybe you shouldn’t tear up your Class Pass and chuck in the gym towel just yet, but if you can spare 20 minutes of your commute to visualise working out, then you could cut your gym time by 20 minutes, which sounds pretty good to us.

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