If you’ve ever needed to take time off from dance due to injury, then you know how frustrating it can be to rebuild muscle strength after a long period of inactivity. But a recent study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology found that the mind—not just the body—may play a key role in maintaining strength.
Researchers from the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute at Ohio University asked 29 people to wear casts that immobilized the hand and wrist for four weeks. During this period, half the participants were regularly guided through an exercise using imagery, where they pictured themselves contracting and releasing the wrist several times. The other half did not do the exercise.
The result? At the end of four weeks, the group that had performed mental imagery exercises had lost 50 percent less strength in their wrists than the non-imagery group, providing significant evidence for the power of mind over matter. So even if you’re recovering, or resting between seasons, keep picturing the strong, powerful movement you plan to get back to. It may have more of an effect than you think.