December 7th 2007: Northamptonshire, UK: With the Christmas season fast approaching, a time when families surround us and we are at our most competitive, we’ll all be looking for ways of getting ahead in whichever games we are playing.
To celebrate the release of its new quiz game, Alan Hansen’s Sports Challenge, Oxygen Games™ has teamed up with psychologist Dr Aric Sigman to bring you some top tips on how to increase your reaction times and get to the top of the leaderboard this Christmas.
Dr Sigman’s top tips for faster reaction times:
Take a (strong) Tea Break
A moderate dose of caffeine decreases the time it takes to prepare a response for a complex reaction time task. The amount of caffeine in one cup of strong tea or coffee increases reaction time and your ability to resist distraction, plus it works within minutes.
Alcohol slows reaction times– that’s one of the reasons we have drink-drive laws. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it does the opposite of stimulating you and a lot to slow you down. Denounce the firewater until your celebration drinks after you win the competition.
A lot! Fatigue isn’t fast or clever but sleeping a lot is. Your reaction time gets slower when you are tired mentally or physically. The more complicated the task, the slower you will be when you suffer fatigue. Mental fatigue, especially sleepiness, has the greatest effect.
Pick Your Moments
Your body clock works in circadian rhythms of roughly 24-hour cycles. Yet even with such a biological‘clock’, there is variation in people's daily rhythms. But disruption of the clock– by staying up too late or changing our sleep-wake schedules negatively affects our alertness and reaction time. Identify the time of day you experience your peak performance. Ask yourself; are you an early bird or night owl, based on what you think are your best times for high alertness. (Early birds are most alert before noon and night owls are most alert during the evening.)
Avoid Trash Telly
Watching lots of soap operas and talk shows isn’t just unstimulating intellectually but has been recently linked with slower reaction times. Scientists believe this type of programming simply doesn’t exercise the brain enough and allows it to become flaccid and slow, like the people who appear on some of the programmes.
Use Your Imagination
Even practising your reaction time mentally will increase it when it counts. Visualise the actual hand movements, and in your mind go through the motions as if it’s the real thing. And when you play the real thing you should be faster.
By contracting your arm and hand muscles for a few seconds (isometric contraction) and then relaxing them a number of times before you play the game seems to allow your brain to work faster. So squeeze, hold and relax… and again.
Activity-specific training movements that are practised in game-like situations are the ones most likely to be used in competition. So practise the actual reaction time movements in as realistic a situation as possible. Reaction times should increase within three weeks of practise and the effects will last for at least three weeks.
Get Off Your Bum!
Physically fit people have faster reaction times. Furthermore, exercise actually increases mental performance and problem-solving abilities within 20 minutes. So if you are generally fit and you then do some aerobic-type exercise for 20 minutes before you compete, you’ll have a distinct advantage.
One of the most investigated factors affecting reaction time is arousal, or our state of attention, including muscular tension. Reaction time is fastest with a medium level of arousal, and deteriorates when we are either too relaxed or too tense. And exercise improves your reaction time by increasing arousal.
Punishment and Stress
For those of you with a masochistic streak, research consistently shows that receiving an electric shock every time you react too slowly will actually improve your reaction time no end. Alternatively, having someone make you feel anxious about your performance has the same effect, at least on simple reaction time tasks.
Illness and minor upper respiratory tract infections slow reaction times, make our mood more negative, and cause disturbance of sleep, which in turn slows reaction time even further. Watch who you kiss or shake hands with.
Distractions increase slow reaction time. Background noise slows reaction time by inhibiting parts of the cerebral cortex. TVs on in the background, mobile phones and email pinging noises slow you down.
Sweet And Slow
Sugar and high glycemic foods can cause drowsiness. Despite claims that glucose will improve performance the opposite is likely to be true. Stick to unrefined carbohydrates and avoid sugary foods and drinks before you compete. Be a monkey and eat a banana instead.
Test your reaction times and put these tips into practise by playing Alan Hansen’s Sports Challenge - the perfect gift for any family this Christmas! Out on PlayStation®2 and PC now and WiiTM on 7th December.
About Oxygen Games™
Oxygen GamesTM boasts a broad range of fun&sociable titles to capture the imagination of the emerging games audience. With the focus on all major console platforms, Oxygen’s games are based on mainstream lifestyles and interests, whilst delivering contemporary content featuring sports, music&well known personalities. For more information, please visit www.oxygengames.net
About Alan Hansen
Probably the most honoured player in the history of British soccer, Hansen captained Liverpool to its victorious double in 1986. After an ongoing knee injury ended his playing career in 1991, he became the face of the BBC’s Match of the Day Live, where is best known for his authoritative and rational analyses of matches. Aside from soccer, Hansen has built a solid reputation for being an excellent motivational speaker and is a talented golfer, with a handicap of three. Hansen remains probably one of the most respected authorities in sporting media today, contributing weekly columns to the Daily Telegraph, in addition to his television work.
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