athlete

Athletes Can Benefit From Anxiety

In manageable levels, these nerves can boost memory.

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, style, and health stories.


THE SCIENCE
Canadian researchers had people who had never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder rate their levels of disquiet for a week. They found that participants who had felt moderately anxious remembered details of their days better than those who had a calm mindset. However, people who had high levels of anxiety remembered neutral events with a more negative lens.
EXPERT INSIGHT
Your brain pays more attention to the things that it deems anxiety-inducing, be it a conversation with your boss or trying a new instructor in your favorite fitness class, explains study co-author Christopher Lee, psychology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The upshot is that those anxious feelings could aid your workout, helping you remember the details to perfect deadlift form or a new HIIT routine better, for example. (Even if the anxiety is brought on by something unrelated to the gym.)

It becomes problematic when anxiety is above what the study qualified as moderate. When you're highly anxious and drag yourself to yoga at a new time, your negative mindset might file this perfectly fine new teacher away as “never again.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Some amount of anxiety can be helpful to athletes. However, learn how to calibrate your energy before a workout so you can ensure it stays in check, says Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph.D., mental performance consultant with the Association for Applied Sports Psychology in West Virginia. Practicing mindfulness can help you be more present at the gym (and also throughout the rest of your day) so you'll remember more with or without anxiety.