For the past few years, we’ve been inundated with media and books telling us how powerful our minds are, and how important ‘how we think about things’ is with regard to achieving goals. It is easy to become somewhat immune to this message when it’s so often wrapped up in pithy and annoying ‘just think it and you can be it’ rhetoric, but every now and again, a fragment of truth can really leap out and slap you across the face.
Such a thing happened to me last night when I read about a study undertaken in Ohio a few years ago. The researchers were trying to establish whether there were any physical benefits to be gained by imagining exercising a muscle. Astonishingly, they found that just thinking about exercise helped maintain muscle strength in a group of subjects.
They split 30 healthy young adults into 3 groups. For 15 minutes a day, five days a week for 12 week, Group #1 imagined exercising their little finger muscle. Group #2 imagined exercising their biceps muscle and Group #3 acted as a control group and did no imaginary exercise. Those in the first two groups were asked to think as strongly as they could about moving the muscle being tested, to make the imaginary movement as real as possible. The researchers measured muscle strength before, during and after the training sessions.
”We asked the subjects to think as strongly as they could about moving the muscle being tested, to make the imaginary movement as real as they could,” says Dr. Vinoth Ranganathan one of the researchers.
All the participants’ muscle strength was measured before, during and after the training sessions and the results were unbelievable: the finger exercisers increased their strength by 53%, and the biceps group increased theirs by 13.4%.
Remember, these guys were just IMAGINING exercising their muscles!
This could explain why athletes who use visualisation techniques often have an edge over their opponents. Perhaps I will give this a try – I am currently recovering from a surgical procedure, and cannot attend my normal yoga classes, so tonight, I am going to do a little ‘mental yoga’ instead and see how I go. (While I am at it, I might just imagine myself in a really cute new yoga outfit, just for added impetus!)