People who want to increase their participation in regular exercise and adopt a healthier lifestyle may be best to mentally visualise it, new research by Curtin University has found.
The research, published in the leading journal Health Psychology, found that ‘mental imagery interventions’, or visualising an activity or task, may be effective in helping people change their behaviours, including moderating alcohol consumption and participating in regular physical activity.
Lead Australian author John Curtin Distinguished Professor Martin Hagger, from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, said the research aimed to explore the link between visualisation and increasing healthy behaviour.
“There are strong links between chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes and behaviour, and imagery-based interventions offer an inexpensive, effective way of promoting healthy behaviours such as physical activity and healthy eating,” Professor Hagger said.
“We found that people who simply visualised the steps necessary to do the healthy behaviour on a regular basis were more likely to be motivated, and actually do, the healthy behaviour.”
Mental imagery was also more effective in promoting healthy behaviours when the visualisation lasted longer, when people were reminded to do their imagery by text message, and when the person was given detailed instructions on how to conduct the imagery exercise.