Does the gym seem too far away? Do you feel like you don’t have time to exercise? There may be some good news for couch potatoes like ourselves. Studies are showing that watching a sport causes some of the same physiological effects as actually working out . While watching others exercise, heart rate, respiration, skin blood flow, and sweat release all increase as if you were exercising.
Researchers at the University of Western Sydney inserted fine needles into an outer nerve of volunteers who were shown a static image followed by a video of a jogger for 22 minutes. With these needles, the scientists were able to record electrical signals within nerve fibers that innervate blood vessels. These recordings provided measures of the body’s physiological stress response, particularly muscle sympathetic nerve activity.
The study showed that sympathetic nerve activity increased when volunteers watched the jogger. In comparison, observing the static image caused change in activity. The sympathetic nervous system innervates the heart, sweat glands, and blood vessels, and its activity increases during exercise. This study indicates that its activity also increases while watching another person exercise, indicating that there may be some benefit.