Using visualisation techniques to help you get fit.
Many people would love to get fit without having to do anything and the idea of being able to improve your strength merely by thinking about it sounds too good to be true doesna��t it?
According to research by Professor Brian Clark at the University of Ohio, just thinking about exercise whilst sitting still may make us stronger. Clark and his team recruited volunteers to wear surgical casts from elbow to wrists for four weeks.
During this time, half the volunteers were asked to perform visualisation exercises, whereby they imagined themselves flexing their wrist muscles. They did this for 11 minutes a day for five days a week throughout the test period, whilst the other group did nothing.
On removal of the casts, the volunteers who had carried out the visualisation exercises were found to have wrist muscles that were twice as strong as those who had done nothing at all.
Stronger neuromuscular pathways lead to stronger muscles.
As part of their research, Clark and his colleagues examined brain-muscle pathways by placing a magnetic field above the motor cortex to stimulate the neurons in the brain.
Application of a magnetic field, caused the muscles of the volunteers to flex and then become momentarily paralysed. By measuring the amount of muscle contraction and the duration of paralysis, the researchers were able to make inferences about the connections in the brain. The longer the paralysis lasted, the weaker the neuromuscular connection.
Not surprisingly, the volunteers who performed visualisation exercises had stronger neuromuscular pathways and hence, stronger muscles.
An active mind equals a healthy body.
This is not a new concept. Our brains evolved together, therefore it makes sense there should be a strong connection between them.
This doesna��t mean the mind alone can keep the muscles strong though, but this research suggests visualisation techniques such as these could play an important role in recovery. For example, it could aid or reduce the effects of muscle weakness following a prolonged period of immobilisation.
Skeletal muscle is the most important factor in controlling strength. However, the nervous system also plays an important role and scientists are just beginning to understand the extent of this.
As research in this area continues, ita��s possible visualisation or imagery techniques could be used to help people undergoing neurorehabilitation or even to help control the effects of aging.
In a press statement, Clark described the muscles as puppets of the nervous system moved by the brain that acts as the string.
a�?Visualisation enhances neural pathways in your brain so ita��s easier for your nervous system to activate those muscles in real life,a�? Clark said.
a�?This information may fundamentally change how we think about muscle weakness in the elderly.a�?
The research team wrote,
“These findings suggest neurological mechanisms, most likely at the cortical level, contribute significantly to disuse-induced weakness, and that regular activation of the cortical regions via imagery attenuates weakness and VA by maintaining normal levels of inhibition.a�?
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