Athletes train in many ways. Aside from normal workout regimens, some athletes might take up yoga or dance while others practice meditation. There are many benefits of meditation for athletes. Sports meditation improves performance, concentration, endurance and reduces tension. It also aids athletes in quicker recovery from injuries and maintaining a healthy immune system.
Meditation has become a valuable tool in both college and national sports teams, as well as individual athletes. Sports meditation comes with both physical and psychological benefits. Initially, the obvious reason an athlete might begin a meditation practice is the known fact that meditation improves concentration. For athletes, the direct result of improved concentration equals a higher level of performance. Once the mind becomes strengthened, it has better control over the body, enhancing overall performance.
Regarding athletic performance, a 1996 study indicated that meditation may enhance competitive shooting performance. A significant improvement was seen among elite shooters who underwent meditation training compared to the control group who did not meditate.
What’s more intriguing are the benefits of meditation for athletes that happen underneath the surface. A series of studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine show reduced fatigue and stress on the immune system in male runners. In one study, 31 male runners were divided into two groups. For six months, one group did relaxation meditation and the other didn’t. A measure of the post-exercise lactate (the base of lactic acid) was significantly less in the meditation group compared with the control group, suggesting reduced fatigue and stress reactivity in the body. In the other study, researchers compared the immune systems of runners by drawing blood samples and measuring the lymphocyte counts before and after a half marathon race. The group of runners who practiced meditation showed lower counts than the group of runners who did not meditate. The counts measure a reactivity to stress alongside a measure of recovery, indicating the immune systems of the meditating runners were less affected by stress.
In 2011, researchers at Harvard Medical School tested 12 healthy volunteers who had never meditated. Half of the volunteers completed an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, while the other half had no meditation training. The patient’s brain alpha rhythms were measured while directing their attention to specific parts of their body before, during and after meditation training. The volunteers who completed meditation training showed significantly more control and modulation over their alpha rhythms and response time to directive cues. The larger picture of this research points to the enhancement of an athlete’s performance in crucial situations where alpha rhythms are essential in limiting distractions and maintaining heightened awareness while keeping a quiet brain.
Sports meditation is an important technique that can be utilized in every sport, as it has nothing but positive outcomes. While it reduces anxiety and makes a calmer athlete, it increases self-confidence and concentration, creating a successful dynamic that would be hard to deny.
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