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When You Watch Sports, Your Brain Thinks You’re Playing (nautil.us)
338 points by prostoalex 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments



The whole notion of “your brain thinks …” is a common interpretation of fMRI studies, but I think it is not very accurate or useful. It contains the idea that what your brain does is somehow separate from what “you” are thinking and doing. In practice, what we see in fMRI pictures is just the what the current thinking and activity looks like in the brain. So even if you saw the same patterns of activity for people watching and playing sports, that wouldn’t mean that the brain “thinks you are playing”, it just means that your thinking might be similar during both activities. As others have mentioned the article does not reference the title, so this is a comment on the title only.


> It contains the idea that what your brain does is somehow separate from what “you” are thinking and doing

It's like those studies that can detect decision making a split second before the person is consciously aware that they've made the decision. It's usually presented as "'you' don't really make the decision", as if that person exists apart from their brain.


>can detect decision making a split second before the person is consciously aware that they've made the decision.

I think the revelation is that the decision people make is the negative one, that the affirmative one is the default and the negative one is the one which requires conscious effort.


Right, seems like a better way to describe this is to say "Watching sports activates the same neural pathways as playing sports".


Which is not very profound. The thought that looking at a ball being kicked and kicking a ball activates similar neural pathways sounds incredibly obvious.


One might assume that is the case, but human beings assume a lot of things that are dead wrong. So while you might have an assumption, it's a pretty good practice to check and see if your assumptions align with reality.

There's quite a few things about our brains that might seem obvious, but are actually quite counter-intuitive in practice.


fMRI studies are like studies showing which transistors are active during certain computations. Maybe it means something, maybe it doesn’t.


This lines up well with McLuhan's revelation that the search for identity is usually correlated with violence [0]. By recognizing organized sports as a "highly-organized form of violence" (his words) you can start to see the corollary.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULI3x8WIxus


In that sense FIFA is the world’s most successful peace organization funneling national violence into sports


"Football is war" - Rinus "The General" Michels.

For the non-soccer fans: Michels was the trainer who invented the Total Football playstyle and was named coach of the century by FIFA in 1999[0]. Although I just learned from Wikipedia that the above quote is taken out of context, I always thought it was an insightful one: football is ritual warfare. And as the article suggests, we're probably better off for its existence, because those tribal instincts are still in our DNA, and they need to come out one way or the other.

And I say that as someone who really dislikes football, partially because of the tribalism.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rinus_Michels


I don't think there's any particularly good reason to believe that giving tribalism an outlet through sports is healthy. It might as well be that giving tribalism an outlet leads to more tribalism. Kind of like how expressing emotional anger might make you angrier[0]

[0] https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102344...


Play-fighting is different from real fighting, though.


Yeah people don't die. But there's a chance that energy gets dispensed through other forms. I mean there is so much money in sports. There is so much money in just exerting dominance. So much to gain. Notoriety. Plus, I can't even begin to imagine the mental destruction that goes on in these players. Depression, Ego Inflation to the point of psychosis. Why can't we transcend domination and go back to play?


We had games for that for ever. We can't get gladiators anymore so we have football, races and ring fights.

"Panem et circenses" is hardly a new concept.


Gladiators are 2000 years old, moreover, they didn't represent anyone.

And 'international sports' don't really go back that far, surprisingly.

The 'oldest currently active international sports competition' is actually the annual hockey game between the Royal Military College (Canada), and Westpoint - or so I'm told. There are arguments for America's cup, but that's a different kind of representation. Those are 1870's vs. 1850's respectively.

So it's really kind of a new thing, and Olympics, World Cup, Commonwealth Games are definitely created in part to build fraternity and collegiately between nations etc..

I think it's also fair to question the term 'violence' because maybe it's really a matter of 'competition' at a physical, visceral level, i.e. 'dominance'. But it's a good point.


> Gladiators are 2000 years old

My point, exactly.

> they didn't represent anyone.

Of course their did. People had their favorites. Community had champions.

Besides, 11 people representing a country is just a ploy to entertain people. There is zero level of relationship between the players and the rest country.

Anyway, the point is moot. It doesn't change the basis of the mechanism: entertaining the mass so that they divert they aggressiveness.


> Besides, 11 people representing a country is just a ploy to entertain people. There is zero level of relationship between the players and the rest country.

Aside from the legal requirement that they be citizens of the country they play for, and that once a player represents his country in a competitive match, they are bound to represent that same country for the rest of their lives, barring some extraordinary situation where the country itself breaks up or ceases to exist.


Artificial requirements to make the illusion of a connection stronger.


I think your assertion that people who were born and grew up in the same country bear 0 resemblance goes against a lot of modern statistics.


They do but not more or less than footballers, bakers or your neighboor. There is nothing special about football except the idea that it's special.


I really don’t see what makes the concept of national football teams any more artificial than the concept of nations in the first place.


I don't think anyone would disagree with you there.


> There is zero level of relationship between the players and the rest country.

Oh I so dare you to go to Brazil and say Neymar doesn't matter. Actually, don't, I don't want to be (indirectly) responsible for your maiming...


Yes, it's very efficient mechanism to control the population.

People have a strong illusion their connection is real


To make my point plainer, who are you to say it isn't?


"who are you" implies I should have some special status to give my opinion.

But the fact remains that they don't run after the ball themself. They don't make any effort in this competition. They don't even have any personnal relationship with the players.

I don't deny it's fun.

You should have fun.

But it's no more real than a movie.


We are all connected.


But we are connected to some much more than others.

See: mother + newborn.


Do you remember coming out of your mother's vagina?


Is that relevant?


Chariot teams were very politicized in ancient Rome and very much represented people and ideas.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/blue-versus-green-roc...


You mentioned Olympics but you missed out on the original Olympics which were very much all about that international (sort of as they were city-states) competition with a truce set up to allow for a relatively safe event.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Olympic_Games


The gladiators might not, but the chariot racers in the Hippodrome did have teams/factions, with fans loyal to each: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chariot_racing

That said, you're right that it wasn't "international", but then again "nations" themselves aren't that old.


> but then again "nations" themselves aren't that old.

Nations are, nationalism and nation-states (which are different but related phenomena) aren't.


No, the whole concept of national identity is very recent, starting from early 1800s for some parts of Europe. Longer than that you had tribal factions or regional identities and that is it.


> No, the whole concept of national identity is very recent

No, it's not, though some current national identities are. The idea of Israel as a nation (distinct from either a state or regional identity), for instance, is at least as old as the Old Testament.


How was the unified Greek state different if you don’t mind me asking?


which era are you refering to? ancient greece was not a unified state. the common denominator what the city. Athenians were clearly not considering themselves like belonging to the same group as Spartans.


If the Romans were smart, they would have had Gladiators and Racers actually representative of provinces.

Or better yet, invent football and do the same.

Nationalism didn't exist at the time, but ethnocentrism certainly did :)


Medieval jousting and single combat had international tournaments for hundreds of years. From before The Hundred Years War in the 1300's through to the 1600's at which point the events started morphing into what would be recognised as modern equestrian sports.


>The 'oldest currently active international sports competition' is actually the annual hockey game between the Royal Military College (Canada), and Westpoint - or so I'm told.

International cricket pre-dates that. The first official international was between Canada and the United States in 1844, with 10 - 20,000 spectators. The K.A. Auty Cup is still played from time to time.

Perhaps a case could be made for cricket helping prevent nuclear war, as India and Pakistan manage to play each other in the various forms of cricket, though there isn't any love lost between the fans.


There were times when India or Pakistan lost, people would burn cities in madness.

I guess we have civilized quite a bit.


>burn cities in madness

Yeah that never happened.


Travel is something of a prerequisite of international sporting events. So, 1870's is very early in that context as people simply moved around less.

That said, medieval jousting for example had what amounted to a multi national sports. It's just the nations where tiny.


> 'international sports' don't really go back that far, surprisingly

That's absurd. Google "Olympic games" and then Google "peloponnesian war".


Yes, there were a few 'games' some time ago, but in the context of history it's nothing.

Ongoing international games as we understand them are a new phenom, dating back to the mid 19th century, and then only a few games.

The modern Olympics are not that old.

There were almost no such games for most of antiquity until late into the Enlightenment.


Again, that's absurd.

The ancient Greek Olympic games lasted for close to 1200 years. Unless your definition of ongoing is longer than that, I think they qualify.

The ancient Olympics carried a truce enforced by Zeus, unless your definition of international doesn't include "independent political entities who engaged in war" I think they qualify.


This isn't that crazy of a concept, to me. FIFA does achieve rather stunning results, given its breadth.

Though I do hear about conspiracies involving fixed games and about FIFA corruption from time to time, I imagine that they've done a lot more good for the world recently than the UN has.

Edit:

Sports are in general associated with some meaningful global events. The Olympics recently demonstrated this fact w/r/t North Korea.


I imagine that they've done a lot more good for the world recently than the UN has

No, they have not! I am not sure by what metric one can compare FIFA and the United Nations, but I don't think you you are familiar with the breadth of the UN's work. Selected achievements from their results page [1]:

-Every year we mobilize about $7 billion in humanitarian aid to help people affected by emergencies.

-Every year we assist over 34 million refugees and others fleeing war, famine and persecution.

-We vaccinate 40% of the world’s children, saving 2 million lives a year.

-In 2011 the UN will provide food to around 90 million people in 73 countries.

-In the past few years, the UN has expanded legal international rights to indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, migrants and their families.

FIFA is merely better at marketing...

[1]http://www.un.org/en/strengtheningtheun/results.shtml


The UN is clearly the better marketer, because it needs to work much harder to justify its ongoing "good" for the world.

I wonder if FIFA has ever been discovered to be running hugely corrupt wings like UN's WIPA which keeps trying to stuff some form of ACTA/SOPA/PIPA down our throats.

I wonder if FIFA has been found to ever profit from the rape and sexual abuse of minors. Minors, who descend from some of the most war-torn and horrific places on Earth.

7 billion annually and look how little they get done each year. Capitalism is much more responsible for Africa's and Asia's escape from poverty than the UN is - and that's a rather low bar.

I laugh at the idea that the UN, and not the charities they force to go through them, is responsible for saving 2 million lives per year. I wonder how many millions they let die each year.

In terms of global politics, FIFA is rather benevolent and yet they foster ongoing positive international relations benefits. The UN is, at best, malevolent, and I am dubious that their positives outweigh their enormous negatives, not to mention their negative externalities.


> I wonder if FIFA has ever been discovered to be running hugely corrupt wings, like…

Surely, surely you’re joking?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_FIFA_corruption_case

That is an entire Wikipedia page about a corruption case only involving tax evasion , following an investigation by the IRS.

This is the FIFA , which decided, completely non corrupt of course, that Qatar is the best place to host a World Cup. Some people follow through on this anecdote with reasons as to why that’s a worse place to do so than actual Hell, but I prefer to prompt you to sit back a moment and think about that. Qatar. Forget about Russia: Qatar. For a sporting match. In summer. Qatar.

For context, these were the final bids for 2022: South Korea, Qatar, Japan, Australia, U.S.A.

Qatar.

FIFA is not corrupt? Sepp “football is politics” Blatter’s FIFA?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sepp_Blatter

Surely you’re joking?


I remain unconvinced that FIFA has done more damage to the world than the UN. The kind of corruption written about here is child’s play compared to what atrocities the UN have committed.


The U.N. is way better at marketing than FIFA could ever dream of being. You’re assuming that all those things would not have been done if the UN didn’t exist. The good things done by the U.N. are a consequence of its funders. If the UN had never been founded other organisations would have been to do the jobs the UN does now. If the UN collapsed tomorrow the associated humanitarian organisations would rebrand and continue.


Oof. That is a heavy 6:40 clip of discourse. Thanks for sharing.


“Smash TV” might come true after all!


I haven't skateboarded in more than a decade, but I've noticed that if I walk by a good looking handrail or concrete ledge, my brain still automatically starts picturing 50/50 grinds, different tail-slide combinations, and more. I didn't play football in high school, but I have to imagine it is something similar that continues on.


I skated for most of my youth and have the same thing going on. I was very happy when someone from my area won SOTY also. I don't really see the same magnitude of fandom during SLS ever occuring. Sometimes people really hate Nyjah or really fan boy for Joslin. Maybe we'll see regional skateboarding teams in the future, but for now we can enjoy skateboarding purely being about the talent. The Olympics will definitely test the waters for this.


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? It's mostly coherent. Maybe this is what technical talk sounds like to non-technical people.


Considering their comment history, I don't think the person we're responding to is none technical.

But if AlphaGo and Google Duplex have had a ML/AI child and they're being tested on HN I'm pretty excited about it!


No, you just don’t understand skateboarding.


I suspect the comment was because the post had a lot of single sentences; the way it's written definitely has some uncanny valley properties going on.


There was a time when I was downright obsessed with co-op armed robbery video game Payday 2, and even months after I stopped playing, I could hardly enter a bank lobby or art gallery without starting to "case the joint".


What did your brain do whenever you saw an armored car? :P


Be glad you didn’t end up working in that industry. Whenever I walk by a staircase or handrail, I’m just reminded of my poor career planning.

I got some unbelievable memories though. I honestly do not believe some of them.


very interesting study. A caveat to the title:

> And the rules don’t apply as well to casual fans, Wann cautions. “This effect is most prominent among those who are most intense. In order to really reap the well-being benefits of fan identification, it needs to be a central part of your overall social identity.” The biochemical aspects of fandom only serve to reinforce those good feelings.

It’s not just watching sports, you need to be fully invested in the experience in the first place. I think the same would be true to anything we truely engage, like a chess or shogi live streams, or really anything we intimately associate with.


Like politics (at least in the US). The similarities between fanatic sports fans and fanatic political party 'members'/voters are quite great. Voters generally want their 'team' to win, even if they know nothing substantial about the candidate on the 'team' they are voting for.


Sadly true. One can't help but fear the dark extremities of this identification.


Very interesting! I was going to propose that maybe this is why watching sports (including esports) is not something I am the least bit interested in.

I was going to say, maybe my brain doesn't work like it's supposed to... but maybe I just never got into it.


Do those have to be competing statements? Maybe you never got into sports because your brain doesn't work that way?


Similarly, I think that to enjoy watching baseball, you have to care about the outcome. It’s a game of anticipation. If you don’t care, it’s like gambling with Monopoly money. It just doesn’t matter.

Football, for example, is a bit different. There’s more of a guarantee of action.


I have enjoyed baseball games without caring about the winner. It is like watching a slow chess match, with occasional running.


Being slower than a chess match sounds impossible, yet it is an accurate description.


Same here, always enjoy watching baseball even if I am not invested in who wins.


With sports there is often a major community aspect at play as well.

I didn’t fully appreciate football growing up until I played. Now I’m so zoned into little details...


Maybe this is why toddlers love to watch shows like Ryan's Toy Review on YouTube, which is just a kid playing with a variety toys with his parents.


Its sad that the parent's aren't playing with the toddler in the first place and let him watch videos instead.

Someday if I decide when its time to get kids, I want to be in a position where I can have as much time as I want for the kids.


I believe that is correct.

First link from searching "why kids like unboxing videos":

https://www.mother.ly/parenting/science-explains-why-your-ki...


It’s not just sports, this happens with YouTube for me. Somehow watching people do cool things with CNC sates my desire to spend $15K on a Tormach.


I happens with programming for me too. I can't watch The Social Network without pausing it and thinking I need to go code something.


Isn't that the reverse effect? I could never watch football (soccer) as a child - why would I want to watch other people having fun when I can go and do it myself! Invariably I'd respond by going out to play [with a] football.


Yeah, I misread, it's the Evil Demon at work.


Let's be fair. Even if those videos weren't there the chances of most people investing 15k on the hope of sticking to learning a complex skill are slim.


From the other side: watched the videos, bought a ton of stuff to have my own machine shop. Now the videos are even more relevant - it’s the little things that mean so much. (Like the fun tricks to know something is parallel or square or the different ways to measure something).

It was really expensive, and I already had a background in automotive work and woodwork to some degree, and a decent IT skill set, but damn, machining is really gratifying.


Y'all are supposed to be talking me OUT of spending money. :P


People in general love buying home gyms and computers and clothes and vehicles and stuff they never use to their potential.


just curious...how much do you have to watch, I don't seem to have gotten there yet.


I wonder if this is why watching video games / e-Sports is also getting popular, even though people complain there's not much physical skill involved.

(Yes, I do watch professional gaming myself)


As both a traditional sports fan and esports fan I agree that it can invoke the same responses.

I see the "lack of physical skill" argument a lot and my typical argument against it is endurance and mental performance. Esports players at their peak train for 8+ hours a day and can compete for 4+ in some longer events. Doing anything with your body for that long takes physical and mental conditioning.

I also see a lot of traditional sports detractors saying "What's the point of just watching someone play the video game, seems boring" and it really blows my mind how much of a disconnect there is.


I don't think there should even be a debate about what's nobler, purer, or whatever for physical vs mental, athlete vs nerd. There is something that seems to be pervasive in all forms of competition, and that is domination. We've all felt it if you have played any sort of competitive game. Basketball to call of duty. That feeling of helplessness, or that rush of just straight up beasting. And if you can harness that domination, there seems to be an avenue for money. Soccer, COD , Halo. Competition has a tendency to funnel money.


>can compete for 4+ in some longer events. Dota's TI2 had a weird schedule where winner of lower bracket had to play 2 Bo3 and Grand Final at the same day. And that team won the tournament!


I used to watch tons of Starcraft, but I feel like at least half the reason was to find inspiration for new strategies and playstyles whenever I got bored of playing standard. For example I pretty much never watched the matchup between the other two races I played.

Whereas I feel like the same can hardly be said for traditional sports. I don't see how you gain any strategical insight into the game of soccer by watching the world cup, at least on the level that a normal viewer could implement.


One thing I have noticed is when watching helmet-cam footage of my own rides off-road here in Borneo I get tensed up, hyper-vigilant about the terrain, angle of the bike, gear and revs etc.

I KNOW exactly what is going to happen, I KNOW I'm watching a recording, yet even when making an effort not to, I still notice my body is reacting and effectively re-living the experience. Spooky.


Similar can be sad about people getting emotional when watching something like the Bachelorette (or anything sad/happy, really) no?


Or reading.[0][1][2] When we read a book, we put ourselves into the positions of the characters and our brains react as if it were so.

0. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/brain.2013.0166

1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/novel-finding-rea...

2. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-neuros...


That certainly explains the success of “competence porn”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10744879/Are-yo...


I think it’s more than just a combination of happy vs unhappy, I can personally confirm that the testosterone buildup from watching a sports match of a team you really care about (even on tv) is very much real. But, just as the study says, you need to not be just a casual watcher, you need to be “invested”, to have a real “feel” for the game.

Just as an example, I’ve had nightmares after this spring’s Real vs Juventus Champions League match which saw the Italians get eliminated in the 92nd minute after a questionable penalty call (I’m a Juve fan) and to this day my heart still feels a little contraction, so to speak, a little “what could have been?”, when thinking about how the Swedes equalized us, Romanians, in the QF of the 1994 World Cup after an error from our goalkeeper (if he hadn’t committed that error we would have faced the Brazilians in the semis, meaning a literal dream come true for us). There have been 24 years since then but the feeling is still inside of me, and I think it will stay with me until the day I’ll walk off this planet. Sports and caring about sports can be both one of the most beautiful and one of the most painful experiences in one’s life.


Speaking of "what could have been"... just ask anyone from New England about 18-1. Actually, don't do this unless you dislike them.


Yes, I was surprised that they did not at least explore similarities with moviegoing.


There really should be a comparison between both traditional sports, and eSports.

My first esports (Dota TI internationals in seattle) outing really felt like I was actually playing. I could appreciate all the moves that were being made even if I couldn't actually do it in front of a computer.

Because esports is mostly done also sitting on a computer, there's also less of a "barrier" than say in watching soccer. You aren't actively moving while watching soccer


"When You Watch Sports, Your Brain Thinks You’re Playing" doesn't match the article title, or appear in the text.


it is the title of the webpage, though. Pretty strange.


Pretty common to have clickbat headlines that don't match content. This was true even before clicks were invented.


This actually happens quite a bit.


I suspect that this is related to this:

"Research into the link between domestic abuse and the football has shown that reports of domestic abuse increase when the England team win or lose a football match and that the instances increase with every World Cup tournament."

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/world-cup-2018-engl...


This would explain why watching your favorite sports team lose has been shown to lower testosterone.


I shudder to think what watching the Redskins year after year has done to my body then.


It raises your testosterone when they win, though!


Ah! That's why I have no affinity for sports. Never played much. Basketball is just 10 guys running up and down the court, almost always making a basket. Yet for my friend Dean, he's leaning and jerking in his seat, experiencing every moment. Plays a lot.


Eh, I play a lot and still don't particularly care for watching most of the time. At least not enough to be invested enough for a season. I'd rather play than watch, though oddly enough I do enjoy watching Counter-Strike (which I also play, though not nearly to the same level I got with sports)


After 10 years of coaching youth sports and observing parents, I think this has something to do with 'mirror neurons', the ability of our brain to watch, learn from and empathize with others. Just like you have an immersive effect with a sci-fi movie and empathize with the characters and feel their plights, so do sports fans. When it's your kid playing of course, it's intensified. Of course, many are just straight up living vicariously through their kids.


The same happens when listening to a singing performance. Citation not offered.


If this is something you're interested in, I'm sure you'll find that citation in this book...

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/generative-processes...


Only half relevant, but I'm reminded of "body english"

> bodily motions made in a usually unconscious effort to influence the progress of a propelled object (such as a ball)


I read a paper more than a decade ago about monitoring simian brains. They noticed (I think it was by accident) that when a chimp watched another eat an ice-cream, the same areas of the brain 'lit up' as if the chimp itself was eating. It makes sense when you think about how invested people can get in their favourite characters in TV and film.


It happened with me last night watching the movie Skyscraper, I could feel my body twitching during the fight scenes.


The basic concept has been known to copywriters for a long time.

It can be used to create a sense of ownership by encouraging the reader to 'experience' the product being sold, just like you're more likely to buy a product after playing with it in a store.

The effect is weak but it certainly does exist.


as a teen it was so strong for soccer that I could keep my legs from hitting the table legs when eating dinner


I wrestled growing up and did some grappling. When watching MMA matches for years i could not sit still once they hit the ground. Was like I was working through the movements I wanted them to make. Would drive my wife crazy sitting beside me. It was all subconscious... usually just tensing my muscles and leaning a certain direction plus my hands would get clamy. My wife would have to point out to me what I was doing and i'd try to control myself lol


yeah, you're in it mentally, at least you want to be


What does this mean? Do people usually kick table legs while earing?


I was so drawn by the game that I couldn't keep my legs from doing what I'd do if I was on the pitch. Eco friendly VR if you will


In soccer you often see the coach standing on the side of the pitch trying to do an imaginary heading of the ball when one of his players has a clear opportunity to score, as if he's playing himself. Our brain is funny sometimes.


the word brain appears once in the article content, once in the title and once in an ad...


It appears twice in the article, along with the words neurochemicals and neuroscience. Thank goodness clippy isn't in charge of rating scholastic merits.

Edit: also biochemistry, biochemical...


Both studies were of groups as a subset of larger groups. That is, these fans were not individuals home alone. I'm curious to know how that might effect their body's reactions.


If you are interested in reading more there is a lot of research in this area, which would fall under the search term "mental imagery".


I used to twitch when I watched hockey, when the pass came and I shot. I was fully aware that I was 'playing' at that time.


Not really surprised since we can learn by watching.


One of the reasons why "backseat-gaming" is used a lot in online gaming when someone streams.


when your brain watches anything, it thinks it is doing it. There is no reason to have 2 brains, just because of TV and cinema exist.

next up, you lose weight by watching people run. although i think believe someone has shown that already.


"it has been found that people who had watched promotional exercise videos tended to consume more calories than they would normally, despite having not done any exercise themselves" https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/20...


OK What about porn?


this reminds me of that old article about exercising your thumb vs imagining exercising your thumb... can't find the link to it though


Your brain reacts as if you're playing.


Unfortunately, my hips don't.


So is it a good way to lose weight :)?


No, because “brain” and “muscles” are different things. In fact, it's the opposite, it's a way to satisfy a desire which would reinforce health and weight loss, without actually reaping any of the benefits.


Didn't some recent research show that merely visualising exercise had measurable physical benefits?


If I recall it was about weight lifting and mentally visualizing the lifts in tandem with actual exercise. Pretty sure just thinking by itself did nothing. So, it was three way comparison (lifting alone, visualizing plus lifting, and just visualizing).

Edit: this is not that study but, along the same lines .. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14998709/ pretty tiny sample though


In general, visualization improves performance of ant activity.


The benefit is supposed to be that your technique will be better. Your muscles won't become stronger unless you exercise them.


There is actually some reason to believe that imagining can increase the strength, for example this study: https://web.archive.org/web/20170814100324/http://jn.physiol...


Probably the opposite, because your brain thinks it did exercise, so: hungry!

Except you didn't actually burn the calories...


I watch fotball while exercising on my spinning bike. Highly recommend!


when I'm playing Mario Cart my brain thinks throwing shells is a reasonable method of dealing with traffic.


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What does this really contribute to the conversation, besides some holier-than-thou attitude about not participating in sports for whatever pseudo-intellectual reason there may be?


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I used to play football (soccer, not hand-egg) a long time ago. When watching football, I still see my reflexes, especially on my left foot, getting into overdrive when some player is about to kick a ball without much warning.


the article is not about this kind of activity. it is about testosterone and brain activity related to winning, etc. hard to read it fully since it randomly goes on about random things.


BIRGing and WIRSing?


Didn't click through did you... the title is misleading, it is only rabid sports fans that display this not everyone.


not for me


Can we get the brain excited about positive-sum games? Dogs can run after a ball, maybe as humans we can do better? Maybe we ought to do much better?


Does it? I get bored to death and start asking myself why I'm not playing rather than watching others playing


It's specifically about fans though - you have to be absolutely fanatical about the sport. If you're bored to death you're not into the sport, so you don't get the same effect


I get bored to death whether I've been forced to watch football or play football. Not sure what's worse.

Fortunately haven't been forced to do sport since I was 14.




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