Our brain learns and grows by interacting with the world through perception and action. Mental stimulation improves brain function and actually protects against cognitive decline.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation discovered that a muscle can be strengthened just by thinking about exercising it.
For 12 weeks (five minutes a day, five days per week) a team of 30 healthy young adults imagined either using the muscle of their little finger or of their elbow flexor. Dr. Vinoth Ranganathan and his team asked the participants to think as strongly as they could about moving the muscle being tested, to make the imaginary movement as real as they could.
Compared to a control group – that did no imaginary exercises and showed no strength gains – the little-finger group increased their pinky muscle strength by 35%. The other group increased elbow strength by 13.4%.
What’s more, brain scans taken after the study showed greater and more focused activity in the prefrontal cortex than before. The researchers said strength gains were due to improvements in the brain’s ability to signal muscle.
If you can strengthen a muscle by just thinking about it…imagine what you can do with your dreams by just visualizing them!