Researchers at Ohio University have discovered that just thinking about working out can make your muscles stronger.
The study suggests that simple thoughts of exercise have the power to trick muscles into avoiding getting tired, serving as another example of the brain and the body working together rather than on their own, according to Breitbart.
Two groups of participants were involved in the study, and one group had their wrists wrapped in a cast that kept their muscles immobilized for four weeks. They told this group to sit still and imagine exercising for 11 minutes, five days a week, and to imagine flexing their arm muscles as intensely as they could. The other group of participants weren't given any specific instructions. Those in the mental-exercising group were found to be twice as strong as participants in the other group.
Researchers then placed a magnetic field over the motor cortex to stimulate neurons in the brain and identify the pathway that lead from the brain to the arm muscles, the Scientific American reported. Participants that performed the imaginary exercise were found to have stronger neuromuscular pathways than those who didn't, resulting in their muscles getting stronger.
The study at Ohio University is not the only one to prove that the brain and muscles work together to make the body stronger, as a study done at the University of Washington years ago on imaginary exercises showed that it can activate the same parts of the brain that are activated while you work out.
Brian Clark, study author and professor of physiology and neuroscience at Ohio University, said the study suggests that imaginary exercises can help keep a person's muscles from getting weaker when their mobility is restricted by health problems, Breitbart reported.
"The most impactful finding, however, is not the direct clinical application but the support that this work provides for us to better understand the critical importance of the brain in regulating strength," Clark added. "This information may fundamentally change how we think about muscle weakness in the elderly."
The study was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology.