Playing Sports Can Help You Focus the Brain


In a recent study, student athletes and regular collegians were tested for their skills in crossing the road by dodging traffic. The research was conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 36 college students were recruited. Half were university athletes in such sports as gymnastics, soccer, wrestling, tennis, swimming and baseball. These athletes boasted of skills like grace, precision, power, strength, endurance etc. The other half comprised of regular healthy students, who were not athletes.

Virtual Traffic
The participants were taken to a lab in which a treadmill was placed in the midst of three giant video screens. They were made to wear goggles which made the video images come alive virtually. The students had to cross a busy road, while virtual cars sped by at high speeds. They had to gauge the traffic and cross the street. During some attempts, the students distracted themselves by listening to music via headphones, or chatted using cellphones. Each volunteer was made to attempt 96 crossings.

Athletes Were More Successful
Overall, the students successfully completed 85% of the crossings. The remaining 15% attempts met with failure, which thankfully meant only virtual accidents. The athletes were more successful in this endeavor than the regular students by a huge margin. But, it was not because of their better physical condition. Their greater success was because they glanced at the traffic more times and processed the data more accurately and quickly than the regular students.

Athletes Think Faster
The researchers said the athletes did not move faster, but their thinking was quicker. Other experts opine that athletes are accustomed to making fast decisions in pressure situations. In the experiment, the student athletes were able to utilize these skills to cross the road successfully. This study is notable because it looked at how being good at sports can help in doing everyday tasks in the real world.

Chinese Study
Last month, Chinese researchers published a report which revealed that expert badminton players could accurately pinpoint the landing place of the shuttlecock while watching videos of badminton matches. During the experiment, their brains showed greater electrical activity in the areas linked to memory and attention, compared to recreational players. This makes it likely that the pro badminton players would also be more capable in navigating crowded streets, compared to amateurs.

Advantages of Playing Sports
Athletes are required to multi-task constantly and process information quickly and accurately. This suggests that physical training helps to re-wire the brain. Practicing any sport, be it tennis, swimming or running can improve your concentration, which can you make you more adept at dodging busy traffic, while crossing the street. Another important revelation from the study is that even the athletes met with virtual accidents when they chatted on their cellphones. So, do not ever chat on a cellphone while walking or driving in traffic.

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