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Movement and stretching imagery during flexibility training.

20 Jul

Researchers from the School of Applied Social Sciences at the University of Durham at Stockton-on-Tees in the UK examined the effect of movement and stretching imagery on increasing flexibility in a randomized, controlled trial.

Thirty volunteers took part in a 4 week flexibility training program. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) movement imagery, where participants imagined moving the limb they were stretching; (2) stretching imagery, where participants imagined the physiological processes involved in stretching the muscle; and (3) a control condition, where participants did not engage in mental imagery.

Active and passive range of motion around the hip was assessed before and after the program. Participants provided specific ratings of vividness and comfort throughout the program. Results showed significant increases in flexibility over time, but no differences between the three groups.

A significant relationship was found, however, between improved flexibility and vividness ratings in the movement imagery group. Furthermore, both imagery groups scored significantly higher than the control group on levels of comfort, with the movement imagery group also scoring significantly higher than the stretching imagery group.

The researchers conclude that the imagery had stronger psychological than physiological effects, but that there is potential for enhancing physiological effects by maximizing imagery vividness, particularly with movement imagery.

Citation: Vergeer I, Roberts J. Movement and stretching imagery during flexibility training. Journal of Sports Science. 2006 Feb; 24 (2): pages 197-208. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award