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Ask Men's Fitness: Can watching a sport on TV improve your ability to actually play it?

Amazingly, it can. According to JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D., author of Your Performing Edge, people who watch sports on TV have a chance of performing better, especially “if they’re actively watching.”

Why? “You’re watching a model of correct performance,” says Dahlkoetter, a licensed clinical and sports psychologist, “and your brain is taking that in.” You can even learn from it while you sleep, she says, and advises watching a five-to 10-minute segment before bed, so you’ll be more likely to dream about it.

“Eight hours of mental rehearsal helps.” And, believe it or not, fantasizing that you’re playing activates your adrenaline and raises your heart rate. In this stage, your prefrontal cortex is “almost anticipating what to do,” she says. It won’t turn you into a superstar overnight, she adds—but hey, it’s nice to know those hours are contributing to your training.

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