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Is the brain the key to making leg exercises feel easier?

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leg workouts & the brain

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Do you wish training for that marathon were a little easier on your legs? The key to making it possible may be in your brain. Researchers at the University of Kent say that stimulating the brain decreases the perception of effort on endurance exercise performance.

The study, published in the journal Neuroscience, examined the effect of a technique called transcranial direct-current stimulation, a form of noninvasive brain stimulation, on the neuromuscular, physiological and perceptual responses to exhaustive leg exercise.

Researchers led by Dr Lex Mauger from Kent's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences found that tDCS delayed exhaustion of the leg muscles by an average of 15% during an exercise task, and that this was likely caused by the participants feeling less effort during the exercise. However, tDCS elicited no significant effect on the neuromuscular response to exercise.

The performance effects of tDCS only occurred when the tDCS electrodes used to deliver the electrical current were positioned in a particular way.

This study, therefore, provides important methodological guidance for the application of tDCS and provides further evidence that brain stimulation can improve endurance exercise performance, although the authors warn against the uncontrolled use of tDCS.

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