A Different Way to Exercise

in Pop Culture
December 4th, 2013

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.

However, we should note that these changes in activity were small and not as intense as in actual exercise. The responses seen in the volunteers were psychogenic, meaning they originated from the mind, rather than the body. Similar responses in the sympathetic nervous system are seen when viewing emotionally charged images, also causing sweat release and an increase in heart rate.

Although this may sound wonderful, don’t get too excited! Nothing is a substitute for actual physical activity, so get up and get your workout on! But, if it all falls through, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re still activating your sympathetic nervous system by watching football every Sunday.

-Elizabeth Virtgaym

Watching Sports Can Make You Fitter -Discovery News

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One Comment on A Different Way to Exercise

  • If this is true then I bet that there are going to be a lot a couch potatoes around watching sports on TV. But I bet this wont give us all the benefits of actually doing the stuff.

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