You Can Trick Your Body into Thinking It's Worked Out—Here's How

Kelsey Clark

While nothing can replace a good sweat session at the gym, there's scientific proof that just thinking about hitting the elliptical can trick your body into believing it has worked out—even while lounging poolside sipping Veuve Clicquot. This comes as a welcome surprise to all couch-dwelling Olympic fanatics whose summer workout has consisted of grabbing snacks from the kitchen during commercial breaks. The secret is in something called proprioception, or motor imagery, which "tends to use the same brain areas responsible for moving your body," explains Nautilus.

Scientist Alexander Bain was the first to hypothesize about the body's response to motor imagery in the mid-1800s, but many others have since investigated his claim further. Most recently, a June 2016 study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found "compelling evidence that motor imagery promotes motor learning," or that visualizing a workout can actually improve your performance in real life. What's more, simply imagining a specific exercise can actually increase your heart rate and quicken your breath, serving as mental practice for the real thing. One study from Rutgers psychologist Robert Woolfork exemplifies this phenomenon perfectly: Golfers that visualized putting a golf ball into the hole before stepping onto the green had 30.4 percent more successful putts than those who did not.

The best part about this trick is that you can do it anywhere: in the shower, before drifting off to sleep, and, yes, even while watching the Olympics and eating chips. While you may not break a sweat or shed any pounds, thinking about working out is certainly better than nothing. 

Interested in putting this theory to the test? Use a UP3 bracelet to track your heart rate, and share your verdict below.

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