Food for thought:

In an experiment that is as hard to believe as it is simple, Drs. Guang Yue and Kelly Cole showed that imaging one is using one’s muscles actually strengthens them. The study looked at two groups, one that did physical exercise and one that imagined doing exercise. Both groups exercised a finger muscle, Monday through Friday, for four weeks. The physical group did trials of fifteen maximal contractions, with a twenty-second rest between each. The mental group merely imagined doing fifteen maximal contractions, with a twenty-second rest between each, while also imagining a voice shouting at them, “Harder! Harder! Harder!”

At the end of the stuffy the subjects who had done physical exercise increased their muscular strength by 30 percent, as one might expect. Those who only imagined doing the exercise, for the same period, increased their muscle strength by 22 percent. The explanation lies in the motor neurons of the brain that ‘program’ movements. During these imaginary contractions, the neurons responsible for stringing together sequences of instructions for movements are activated and strengthened, resulting in increased strength when the muscles are contracted. (The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge).