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Think Yourself Strong

Posted by Heather J.

Many competitive athletes are familiar with visualization techniques; by imaging a race or competition from start to finish - and imagining themselves achieving their goal during this event - the athlete comes even closer to making it a reality. This technique can be used in all aspects of our lives. But in regards to fitness, some research suggests that visualizing an exercise can help maintain muscle strength. In the study, 30 healthy young adults were divided into three groups. For 15 minutes a day, five days per week for 12 weeks, the first group imagined exercising their little finger muscle, the second group imagined exercising their biceps muscle and the third group served as a control by not doing any imaginary exercise. Subjects were asked to think as strongly as they could about moving the muscle being tested. The finger exercisers increased their strength 35 percent, while the biceps group increased 13.4 percent. Measurements of the participants' brain activity during their mental exercises suggest that these strength gains were due to improvements in the brain's ability to signal muscle. Researchers hope these results will assist in the therapy of stroke and spinal cord injury patients, as well as healthy older adults. Of course, this doesn?t get you out of actually doing the work (sorry!): that's when you reap the most rewards, but if you're out of commission for a time, you may want to consider hitting the gym in your mind. In my make-believe world, that would entail a nice post-workout massage, too. And chocolate chip cookies that do no damage. And a check for a million dollars. And...oh, I digress...
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