Just thinking about exercising tricks your body into believing it has
Going to the gym can take up a lot of your time, be expensive and yield disproportionately slow results. Luckily it turns out you might not even need to as apparently merely imagining yourself exercising can do your body good.
Sound ridiculous and in no way provable? Well Jim Davis, a cognitive expert at The University of Carleton in Canada wrote in science magazine Nautilus about how it might actually be true.
He explains it is "Because you have the power of proprioception (it's also sometimes called "kinesthesis")" this is how we all have a sense of where our body parts are and what functions they are responsible for.
"Just as visual imagery uses the same brain areas as visual perception," he explains, "Motor imagery tends to use the same brain areas responsible for moving your body." This means that giving the parts of our brain the same workout we do during exercise can lead to physical improvements.
Still cynical? A study in 2014 at Ohio University took a group whose arms were in casts and asked half of the group to imagine flexing their wrists; when the casts came off, the muscles they'd thought about were twice as strong as in people who hadn't done the mental work.
Davies also points out a paper titled 'Online and Offline Performance' which suggests that mental activity increases physical prowess:
"'There is now compelling evidence that motor imagery promotes motor learning.' When you imagine exercising, your breath and heart rate actually increase. Mental practice is one of the few effective performance enhancing activities."
So maybe don't be too hasty with committing yourself to a life lying horizontally. Doing real physical exercise will of course give you greater health benefits than staying glued to your sofa.
That said, it is good to know if you can't make it out for a morning run, thinking about it might be good for you, rather than torturing yourself about what you haven't accomplished.