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What Is Imagery?

Many fitness instructors use imagery techniques that draw on personal experiences of athletic events or nature outings to enhance indoor cycling classes or lead relaxation during a cooldown. More and more research supports the benefits of using imagery to achieve specific objectives like improved performance or deep relaxation. To create a standard definition across scientific disciplines for more consistent research, investigators at Florida International University School of Nursing in Miami reviewed the concept of imagery and developed a definition, published in the journal Advances in Mind-Body Medicine (2004; 20 [2], 4–10).

Study authors found that mental imagery is often referred to as visualization. Typical characteristics of imagery include mental, physical, emotional, dynamic, process-related and quasirealistic references. Authors offered the following working definition for research going forward: “Imagery, a mental function, is a lived experience that is a dynamic, quasireal, psychophysiological process.” The researchers would like this definition to provide a foundation for further research.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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