Watching sport can make you fitter, study claims

November 24, 2013

Watching sport can make you fitter, according to research Sunday that said viewing other people exercise increases heart rate and other physiological measures as if you were working out yourself.

The study, published in the international journal Frontiers in Autonomic Neuroscience, showed that when watching a first person video of someone else running, , respiration, skin blood flow and sweat release all increased.

They returned to normal at the conclusion of the "jog".

Researchers said that importantly, for the first time, it was shown that muscle increased when people watched physical activity.

"Recording this nerve activity provides a very sensitive measure of the body's to physical or ," said one of the lead researchers Vaughan Macefield, from the School of Medicine at the University of Western Sydney.

"We know that the —which supplies the heart, sweat glands and blood vessels, as well as other tissues—increases its activity during actual exercise.

"Now we have shown that it increases when you are watching a moving scene as if you were running yourself."

During the study, very fine needles were inserted into an outer nerve of nine volunteers to record the electrical signals of nerve fibres directed to , providing a very sensitive measure of the body's physiological responses to physical or mental stress.

The participants were initially shown a static image on a computer screen while the researchers monitored their muscle sympathetic nerve activity and other physiological parameters.

These measurements remained constant while watching the non-moving landscape image, but that changed when shown a 22-minute video shot by a runner on a vigorous jog.

"Although these changes were small, they were all appropriate physiological responses to exercise," said Rachael Brown, who conducted the study with Macefield, considered a top world expert in recording human sympathetic neurones in health and disease.

"As the volunteers were sitting relaxed with no muscle activity it indicates that the responses were psychogenic—that is they originated from the mind and not the body.

"This dovetails with our recent work on the emotions, where we found that viewing emotionally charged images, such as erotica, increases our sympathetic and sweat release."

While the study concluded that your body will get a small workout from simply watching others exercise, Macefield cautioned that nothing compared to real physical activity.

"While watching other people exercise may increase your heart rate and have other physiological effects, nothing can replace the health benefits of getting off the couch," he said.

Explore further: Nervous system activity may predict successful weight loss

Related Stories

Nervous system activity may predict successful weight loss

December 5, 2011

A recent study of obese volunteers participating in a 12-week dietary weight-loss program found that successful weight losers had significantly higher resting nerve activity compared to weight-loss resistant individuals. ...

Understanding the role of IKACh in cardiac function

July 15, 2013

Researchers have uncovered a previously unknown role for the acetylcholine-activated inward-rectifying potassium current (IKACh) in cardiac pacemaker activity and heart rate regulation, according to a study in The Journal ...

Recommended for you

Bright lighting encourages healthy food choices

May 26, 2016

Dining in dimly lit restaurants has been linked to eating slowly and ultimately eating less than in brighter restaurants, but does lighting also impact how healthfully we order?

Big Data can save lives, says leading cancer expert

May 16, 2016

The sharing of genetic information from millions of cancer patients around the world could be key to revolutionising cancer prevention and care, according to a leading cancer expert from Queen's University Belfast.

New soap to ward off malaria carrying mosquitoes

May 13, 2016

(Medical Xpress)—Gérard Niyondiko along with colleagues Frank Langevin and Lisa Barutel has posted a project on the crowd source funding site ulule for a product called Faso Soap. They claim the soap can cut in half the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.