Can you think yourself fit?

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Injuries can feel like a major setback when you're used to working out regularly. But a new, small study wants to put your mind, and muscles, at ease.

For the study, researchers from Ohio University gathered 29 healthy people and put their non-dominant arm in a cast for four weeks. They asked half of the participants to perform mental imagery exercises-which was essentially the simple act of imagining flexing their wrists for brief intervals-five days a week. The mental workout session consisted of imagining a muscle contraction for five seconds followed by five seconds of rest repeated 13 times, with that entire set repeated a total of four times.

When the casts were removed, researchers found that while everyone experienced muscle weakness in their arm, those who performed the mental exercises lost 50 percent less strength compared to the group who did nothing. This suggests that merely envisioning exercising activates the brain in the same way actually doing it would.

Of course this doesn't mean you should cuddle up on the couch thinking about pumping iron instead of literally lifting weights. (Remember, all participants still saw muscle loss.) But, this is valuable information to keep in mind if you find yourself sidelined by injury. Go and get your brain sweat on.

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