BODYBUILDING & TRAINING
Brains can build brawn
Thinking of getting your body into shape after long neglext? Try thinking yourself into shape!
Ellen Goodman | February, 2004
To be frank, I had nearly given up on scientific research as the road to health. I had almost abandoned the last hope that medicine would come up with a user-friendly formula for longevity.
First there was the bad news about cloning, the genetic path to immortality. Dolly the clone has come up with arthritis in her prime sheephood. Even if I could be cloned into everlasting life, each new �me� might get decrepit faster than the original.
Then there was the bad news about cancer prevention. The same protein that can protect me from cancer appears to bring on ageing. The mutant mice in the lab didn�t succumb to tumors, they just shrivelled up and died prematurely. Some trade-off.
With one bulletin following another, it seemed that we were back to basics. I was left with the same dreary options for a healthy and lengthy life: eat less and exercise more.
Well, eating less, much less, has long been associated with longevity. But my own scientific belief is that food deprivation doesn�t really let you live longer, it just makes every day feel longer.
Exercise, on the other hand, may give you some extra time, but you have to spend it all in the gym.
But now, just in time to rescue my New Year�s resolutions from the recycle bin, comes a man with a fertile imagination. In fact a bulging imagination. Dr Guang Yue of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation has officially proved that you can build bigger muscles just by thinking about using them. You too can buff up with mental exercise.
At first glance this physiologist sounds like the Emperor�s New Personal Trainer. But the study he recently presented to the Society of Neuroscience shows what happens when 30 young adults spend 15 minutes a day thinking big. Just visualising the exercise of the pinkie was enough to increase its strength by 35%. It was enough to buff up the muscle around the elbow by 13%.
This was not like bending spoons with your mind. It was like lifting weights. Admittedly, I have no idea why anyone might want a bulging pinkie. Muscular elbows have never been high on my body dance card. But think thighs and you get the idea.
We now have a rich addition to our fitness fantasy life: the Thinking Person�s Exercise Programme.
Welcome to the wonderful world of mental gymnastics, buffing without huffing, training without straining.
This programme will bring glee to the hearts of people who have not yet unwrapped their dumbbells and will never amortise their health club memberships. It will save the lives of those who are thinking of murdering the man in the abs infomercial.
Mind you, visualisation is not an entirely new idea. Coaches have used it; gurus have promoted it. As a sometime golf, tennis and squash player I have been urged to imagine all sorts of balls reaching their appointed destiny.
Most of these programmes require that sooner or later you actually hit the ball. Which tends to end the fantasy.
But in the Thinking Person�s Exercise Programme you don�t imagine the sport. Imagination is the sport.
The good Dr Yue warns: �It�s not that easy.� It requires a lot of mental energy. What it does not require, however, is any heavy lifting.
The Thinking Person�s Exercise Programme offers no equipment beyond the grey matter that comes as part of the standard package.
You don�t have to wrap your body in Lycra, you don�t have to shell out hundreds of dollars in shoes or buzz your biceps with little electrodes.
Best of all, many of us already have a head start. I for one have been thinking about getting in shape for years.
Body building has long been a figment of my imagination. Now I know I�m on the right track. –Mail & Guardian