Some research conducted recently highlighted just how important an instrument your brain can be when wanting to train your physical body. Participants were split into two groups to identify which had the largest increase in strength. The first group had to physically exercise a muscle in their little finger, whereas the second group had to VISUALISE moving the finger to exercise the muscle. Well predicting the results would be obvious – you would think. Actually, results showed that the first group had a 30% increase in strength compared to a 23% increase for the group who only visualised it! Without moving a muscle and only using the brain, the second group was only 7% behind in strength scores. Amazing.
I am not advocating that the take home message from this study is to visualise yourself doing exercise instead of actually performing it!! But it does demonstrate just how powerful the brain can be. It is so complex that scientists have done better at getting humans into space than unravelling the mysteries of the brain. However, one characteristic of the brain which explains why visualisation is such an effective tool is the brain’s plasticity (the ability for it to change in response to certain demands).This characteristic is so important, scientists are looking at its uses as cures for diseases such as dementia. It means that the brain you went to sleep with last night is not the same brain you woke up with this morning! The more you challenge your brain and place it under different demands, the more it will adapt accordingly, making neural connections stronger, to make it a more efficient tool.
So how does this apply to you? When you come into your KX Pilates class to train your body, be aware of how much you rely on your brain. Start to think about the movement patterns you are being asked to do and what muscles you are trying to engage. The more you think about what you are doing with your body and understand what effect you are trying to achieve, the better your results will be. Even just small adjustments to your movement have large effects in the long term – but you need to be aware of it so that your brain adapts to the demand and therefore makes your physical movements more biomechanically efficient.
So all in all, the old adage ‘mind over matter’ has proven to be correct – just how much has yet to be determined. Give it a try in all kinds of different life situations as well as your daily exercise and see what difference it makes to you.