Thinking About The Gym Is Just As Effective As Going, According To Research

Just imagining yourself working out is the same as going to work out.

woman resting during workout Luka Funduk | Shutterstock

Frankly, I'm a couch potato. I like eating snacks and binge-watching shows I can find on Netflix. The only time I begin to actually consider working out is if I can no longer fit into my clothes. (I know, shameful.) If only I could work out by just thinking about it, I would. Well, great news lazy people: That is now possible. 

Thinking about the gym is just as effective as going, says research.

RELATED: Shots For Everyone! Tequila Makes You Skinnier, Says Science


A study from Ohio University found that the mind is one strong muscle, and that simply imagining exercise can tone muscle, delay atrophy, and even make your muscles stronger. 

According to Brian Clark, professor of physiology and neuroscience at Heritage College and executive director of the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI), scientists have long known that the brain's cortex helps coordinate and control muscle movement.

They conducted an experiment using two sets of 'healthy individuals.' The researchers wrapped the wrists of one of the sets in a cast and gave them instructions to sit still for 11 minutes, five days a week, for four weeks, and 'perform mental imagery of strong muscle contractions,' — or, imagine that they were exercising, or envisioning them weightlifting, while given wrist monitors to keep track of the activity in the brain and muscles, while the other set was told to do nothing, and were free think to about whatever they wanted to while sitting.


RELATED: Drinking Wine Before Bed Helps You Lose Weight, Says Study

"We wanted to tease out the underlying physiology between the nervous system and muscles to better understand the brain's role in muscle weakness," said Clark, who authored the research article.

At the end of the four weeks, the participants who engaged in the 'mental exercise' were twice as strong as those who didn't, Breitbart reports.

They found that the group who was thinking about working out was physically and mentally stronger than the group who did nothing. This sounds like this is too good to be true, but science doesn't lie, people.

RELATED: The Best Thing I Did For My Marriage Was Lose Weight For My Husband


The results illustrated that the body and mind are more intertwined than we thought.

Researchers hope that this finding will be helpful to people who can't easily move around and work out like the elderly. Having them focus on images might help them stay healthier and stronger.

'What our study suggests is that imagery exercises could be a valuable tool to prevent or slow muscles from becoming weaker when a health problem limits or restricts a person’s mobility,' says Clark.

Now excuse us, we're off to envision ourselves doing sit-ups. It totally counts if you're also eating pizza at the same time, right?


RELATED: The 7-Minute Workout That's Scientifically Proven To Get You Fit

Nicole Weaver is a senior writer for Showbiz Cheat Sheet whose work has been featured in New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and more.