Motor Imagery: Amazing but true, you can think yourself fitter

  • Why Motor Imagery is the laziest way to get fit
  •  A brain trick that helps you become 24% stronger and more mobile – just by thinking!
  •  This seems incredible but it’s true and backed up by scientific trials

There’s an old adage…

If something seems too good to be true…

Then it probably is.

But in the case of what I’m about to show you today, I’m not so sure.

Because imagine this…

You’re sitting on your sofa one morning and you decide that you want to improve your physical strength and mobility.

Surely that’d require you to get up and move, right?

Maybe a quick workout, a walk to the park, a jog, some press-ups and sit-ups…

But in this case, no…

Instead, you just THINK about doing all those things… in detail… and, remarkably, it has a REAL effect on your body.

In other words…

You think yourself fitter!


I’d be, too.

Except I’ve been looking into this phenomenon, known as ‘motor imagery’, and it’s backed up by science.

The idea to write about this today came to me after hearing an episode of a podcast by Michael Mosley, called ‘Just One Thing’. (You can check it out here if you want to hear it: Just One Thing

I’ve written a bit about Mosley in the past, as he’s the presenter of the BBC TV series Trust Me, I’m a Doctor.

What I like about him is that he’s not afraid to bust myths and hype, or call-out quackery, but in his programmes he’s also very positive about natural and alternative methods of avoiding disease and maintaining good health.

Much of what he talks about focusses on everyday things that ordinary people can do to improve their pain levels, stamina, sleep quality and diet.

So he’s very much in the Good Life Letter vein, I’d say.

And he’s pretty good at explaining things in layman’s terms, so that everyone gets access to the information they need, no matter what their education or language skills.


In ‘Just One Thing’s recent episode he looks at motor imagery, and the science behind it.

And it’s pretty compelling.

A mind trick that boosts your strength by 24%

The evidence shows that you can boost your strength by 24% simply by imagining yourself doing something physical.

That could be repeatedly kicking a ball into a goal, doing 30 press-ups, lifting weights, or having a workout.

Essentially, you think about moving without actually moving.

So how does it work?

Well, 25% of the neurons in your brain are known as ‘mirror neurons’ – they’re activated whenever you think about moving or even if you’re watching someone else move.

This works in reverse…

If you activate the movement neurons in your brain, simply by using your imagination, it has an effect on the body, too.

As you can imagine, this is a technique that has long been used by elite athletes to improve their performance.

For instance, a track athlete might imagine the entire race they’re about to run, from the starting gun to the first lap to the sprint finish.

Or an archer might imagine pulling back the bow, taking aim, and firing that arrow into the bullseye.

But it’s something that you could use too…

Particularly if you suffer from joint pain, lack of mobility, or physical injury.

A 2017 review of the evidence so far says the following:

“Motor imagery has been used after a stroke to attempt to treat loss of arm, hand and lower extremity movement, to help improve performance in activities of daily living, to help improve gait, and to minimize the effects of unilateral spatial neglect.”

By spending time thinking about an action in detail, it will become easier to actually carry out that action when you do it.

It’s like a guided meditation, really, where you imagine every tiny element of the activity, right down to how your muscles would feel, how the environment around you would look, and how your breathing would be… right down to how you’d feel while it was all being carried out.

However, while I’d like to say that you could then do NOTHING and still feel the full benefits, that’s not quite the case…

Do it first in your mind, then try it in reality

A 2011 study overview of motor imagery states that: “The literature suggests a beneficial effect of motor imagery (MI) if combined with physical practice.”

In other words, you will need to add some real action after you have had your action thoughts!

But, saying that, this technique is very much worth a try if you are struggling with pain, fatigue, weak muscles and stiff joints – because think how much money you’d spend on a lotion or supplement that gave you 24% extra strength and mobility.

You’d snap it up surely!

And yet this is something you can do for free, in your own time, in your own home – and target it specifically at the physical problem or obstacle that’s troubling you.

P.S. If you want to explore the power of thought and see how this can make a real change to your life this book is all you need.