How the mind affects the body

At Wattson Blue, we understand that people are busy and that the pressure of fitting in training around a busy work schedule can contribute to feelings of stress. The platform aims to take this into account and can help you and your coach manage your training alongside other activities. Wattson Blue also recognises the importance of mental wellbeing when it comes to fitness and exercise, and aims to not only look at physical measures of fitness, such as training load, heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV), but also incorporates subjective measures, such as mood and emotional balance. These physical and mental aspects of wellbeing are also highly interrelated, with a great deal of evidence showing a relationship between HRV and mental health prevalence. HRV refers to the specific changes in time between consecutive heartbeats1 (more information in the blog post on HRV). Higher HRV has been linked to greater emotional control and psychological flexibility, whereas lower HRV has shown associations with increased rumination (a symptom of many anxiety disorders). A study by Chalmers et al. (2014)2 also found a link between anxiety disorders and reduced HRV and a study by Wang et al. (2013)3 looked at the correlations between HRV and depressive symptoms and found a linear relationship between the two. Furthermore, one study by Stein et al. (2000)4 assessed cardiac patients with severe depression and found that they had a significantly reduced HRV in comparison to those with less severe levels of depression. This points to the interrelation between mental health and physical health, and how important it is that we are aware of the role mental health plays in fitness.

“Guided breathing can increase HRV as does increased amounts of aerobic exercise”

A plethora of techniques and therapies have been put forward to try and promote mental wellbeing, such as CBT, exposure therapy, hypnotism and more. One increasingly popular technique that has shown great potential in combating mental health problems is mindfulness; mindfulness is a technique that focuses on being aware of what is going on in the present moment, whether that be in your mind, body or surroundings5. Practising mindfulness usually involves drawing attention to the body and breathing. Breathing, in particular, has been shown to play a role in HRV, according to a study by Dan Quintana6, guided breathing can increase HRV as does increased amounts of aerobic exercise. This again demonstrates the interrelationship between mental wellbeing and physical health, demonstrating in particular the influence that mindfulness can have on both of these aspects.

“An optimal stress-recovery balance is vital for achieving optimal performance”

Due to this increasing awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing in sport, there has been a greater focus on subjective measures in training. The importance of these measures is particularly prominent in the area of stress-recovery. Having an optimal stress-recovery balance is vital for achieving optimal performance and also for maintaining well-being and health amongst athletes. It is essential to ensure enough time is left between training episodes for adequate recovery, in order to reduce the risk of overtraining8. There have been several studies conducted to try and find specific psychological, biological or physiological markers responsible for the ideal recovery-stress balance but no consistent markers have been found9. In order to get a better indication of the stress-recovery dynamic, questionnaires looking at subjective measures have been introduced. These include the RESTQ-Sport, which sensitively measures both recovery and stress at the same point in time8. Other questionnaires, such as the acute recovery and stress scale (ARSS), and the short recovery and stress scale (SRSS) have also been shown to be useful measures of this stress-recovery dynamic10. The ARSS and SRSS focus on the recovery stress state in the current moment unlike the RESTQ-Sport, which takes measures over the past three days. The purpose of self-report questionnaires is that they use measures of mood and perceived internal state to monitor responses to training10. At Wattson Blue, we monitor these subjective measures alongside athlete’s training in order to maximise training response while also maintaining good mental fitness. This is a key feature of Wattson Blue, we emphasise the importance of this aspect of training as we know that it contributes to a balanced training programme.

“At Wattson Blue, we monitor these subjective measures alongside athlete’s training in order to maximise training response while also maintaining good mental fitness.”

Wattson Blue aims to look at important metrics of fitness to develop training plan and recommendations tailored specifically to each athlete. We look at subjective measures such as mood and perceived control because these areas are so closely linked to recovery stress rates, and mental wellbeing.

It is therefore essential that you complete these metrics on the app. We recognise that fitness is not just about the number of miles you run or number of reps you complete each day, fitness is influenced by every aspect of your being and at Wattson Blue we think it is important that people remember this.

 

References

1 – Moore (2016) – https://hrvcourse.com/heart-rate-variability-vs-heart-rate/

2 – Chalmers, J.A., Quintana, D.S., Abbott, M.J.A., Kemp, A.H. (2014). Anxiety disorders are associated with reduced heart rate variability: A meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychiatry, 5 (80), 1-11

3 – Wang, Y., Zhao, X., O’Neil, A., Turner, A., Liu, X. and Berk, M. (2013). Altered cardiac autonomic nervous function in depression. BMC Psychiatry, 13 (187), 1-7

4 – Stein PK, Carney RM, Freedland KE, Skala JA, Jaffe AS, Kleiger RE. et al. (2000). Severe depression is associated with markedly reduced heart rate variability in patients with stable coronary heart disease. J Psychosom Res. 48:493–500

5 – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/#.WzH7nraZM_U

6 – https://elitehrv.com/mental-health-hrv-antidepressants-dan-quintana?utm_sq=fnzapmrnn1&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=EliteHRV&utm_content=Blog+Posts+/+Podcasts

7 – https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/06/sports/basketball/phil-jackson-zen-master-knicks-mindfulness.html

8 – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254616300175

9 – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/289180156_The_perceived_recovery-stress_state_as_a_marker_of_training_and_performance_stress_in_highly_trained_rowers

10 – Nassi, A., Ferrauti, A., Meyer, T., Pfeiffer, M., Kellmann, M. (2017). Development of two short measures for recovery and stress in sport. European Journal of Sport Science.