Mind over muscle

You probably already believe in the power of your mind. If your mind wasn’t powerful how could you have interpreted that friendly remark by a co-worker as a sinister attempt to undermine your position? There are so many examples of your mind creating your reality that you probably don’t need any convincing but new research may extend what you thought was possible because it seems that your mind may even be able to build your muscles.

The new research involved people wearing a rigid cast that extended from below the elbow to cover the fingers so that it immobilised the hand and wrist. There was a control group who did not wear casts.

Of the group that were wearing the cast half of them were asked to perform an imaginary exercise where they imagined that they were intensely contracting their wrist for five seconds and then resting for five seconds. The subjects were guided through the exercise with instructions like, “Begin imagining that you are pushing as hard as you can with your left wrist, push, push, push…and stop. (five second rest) Start imagining that you are pushing again as hard as you can, keep pushing, push, push, push…and stop.” This was repeated four times in a row followed by a one minute break for a total of 13 rounds per session and for five sessions per week. The second group performed no imaginary exercises.

At the end of four weeks both groups who wore casts lost strength in their immobilised limbs however, the group that performed the mental imagery lost 50 per cent less. The nervous system’s ability to fully activate the muscle also rebounded more quickly in the imagination group.

This show that your nervous system plays a significant role in muscle strength and that the cerebral cortex can play a role in strength development. It seems you can be doing some strength training even as you sit reading this, not only is there such a thing as “theatre of the mind” it seems there can be a “gym of the mind” as well.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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