Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This Just In: Stressed? Your Sweat Session May Suffer

Interesting news from the American Physiological Society. You're less like to perform well in a workout if your mind's whirring. How the study worked: A group of 16 people rode a stationary bike with at least 60 revolutions per minute in two different bouts on different days, with the same amount of sleep and pre-workout food and drink. Before one session, each group member did an exhausting mental task that required close attention, memory and a quick reaction. After undergoing this session, participants reported feeling tired and lacking energy. The control session consisted of watching neutral documentaries for 90 minutes and was not mentally fatiguing. Here are more deets from the press release:
  • The participants stopped exercising 15% earlier, on average, when they were mentally fatigued.

  • The participants stopped at the same perceived effort level in both the fatigued and non-fatigued trial. However, mentally fatigued participants started at a higher level of perceived effort and reached the endpoint sooner.

  • The cardio-respiratory and musculo-energetic measurements did not vary between the two trials when compared at specific points in time (in other words, the mentally taxed folks showed no physical, muscular differences--it was all mental). However, because the non-fatigued trials went longer, heart rate and blood lactate levels were higher at the end of those trials.

  • Motivation was the same in both trials and was not a factor.

Next up, the scientists want to look at whether mental fatigue lowers the brain's inhibition against quitting, or if mentally fatigue affects dopamine, a brain chemical that plays a role in motivation and effort. And here I thought hitting the gym was the best way to say sayanora to stress?! I think, personally, that this is the take away: If a workout is your stress-buster of choice, by all means, stick with it. Just keep the taxing work and personal life stuff to a minimum before a big race or crucial training session, because it could make it a little tougher to perform to your best potential. Posted by Liz

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