Improving your reaction time is one of the best investments you can make in your physical fitness and functionality.
There are so many situations where being able to act just a little bit quicker can make all the difference. This could be in athletics or in your daily life.
In this post, we cover all the best ways you can increase your reaction time. Give them a try and you’ll be happy with the results!
Understanding Reaction Time
Reaction time is one of the most misunderstood elements of human performance. While most people think they know what it is, their definition of it is technically incorrect.
Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or someone who sits at an office all day, reaction time plays a crucial role in every single thing that you do.
Essentially, reaction time is how fast you respond to external stimuli.
Your brain and nervous system govern your entire body. Every action you take first has to go through your brain before your body can ever start moving.
Think of it as a computer. Whenever your body experiences a stimulus, electrical signals are sent to the brain to be processed.
This external stimulus doesn’t have to be anything major.
It could be bright light hitting your eyes or someone tapping you on the shoulder. Whatever the case may be, your senses are stimulated immediately.
Those sensory receptors then send out electrical impulses to your brain so that it can decide how you need to respond.
Then, the brain sends those signals to the central and peripheral nervous systems so that they can travel to the parts of the body that need to move.
The final result is a physical response to the stimulus. It sounds simple enough, but it’s a complex process that happens in only fractions of a second.
Why Improving It Is So Important
As we mentioned earlier, your reaction time is incredibly important for your everyday life.
It keeps you safe and ensures that your body is primed to move whenever it needs to.
Think about all of the activities you do that rely on quick reaction times to perform successfully.
Driving is a big one. When a car suddenly pulls out in front of you, quick reaction time can mean the difference between staying safe and getting into an accident.
The same goes for simple falls. When you trip, your brain must respond quickly to the visual stimulation so that it can tell your hands to catch yourself.
Even being exposed to blinding light relies on fast reaction times to prevent any long-term damage to your vision!
Don’t mistake reaction time with reflexes. While reflexes and reaction times both work to keep you safe, there is one key difference.
Reflexes are involuntary movements to stimuli. Meanwhile, reaction time deals with voluntary movements that you have to consciously make.
Reflexes aren’t affected too much by lifestyle choices or mental prowess.
They’re always there working behind the scenes to avoid harm whether you’re paying attention to your surroundings or not.
That’s not the case with reaction times. Unfortunately, your ability to react quickly can wane over time.
Your brain naturally gets slower as you age due to impairment and degeneration.
Poor health and lifestyle choices can exacerbate the problem as well.
Different Ways To Improve Reaction Time
The good news is that it’s completely possible to improve reaction times. Strengthening that connection between your body and brain can make a noticeable difference in your ability to react to the world around you.
Physical responses will seem quicker than ever before and that brief moment of “buffering” can be eliminated over time.
There are various techniques you can use to do this. While some are easier to do than others, they’re all worth trying.
Train A Specific Movement Or Action
Have you ever wondered why athletes always perform the same drills over and over again? Well, a large part of that is geared toward improving reaction time on the field.
There’s no better way to speed up reaction times than to physically train your body to perform the response you want to happen. When you do those exercises, you’re firing up the central nervous system just like you would if you were naturally responding to a stimulus.
This creates neural connections between your brain and your body. The more you train those movements, the stronger the connection will be. That’s why mimicking movements is such a huge part of athletic training.
Having those neural connections established and reinforced ensures that the electrical signals can quickly get through to your body.
There are several ways that you can train. It all depends on the sport you play. Sprinters often work to improve reaction times by simulating the explosive starting sound of a gunshot or bell.
When every second counts (like it does in sprinting competitions), getting your body comfortable with that response can make all the difference.
Those who play contact sports like football or rugby often perform plyometric exercises.
These are explosive workout moves that require you to use as much muscle force as possible in a split second. Jump squats and lateral hops are both good examples.
Athletes can also participate in over-speed training. Essentially, over-speed training is forcing your brain to adapt to stimuli that are much faster than what you’d normally be encountering in a real-world setting.
The idea is that getting more comfortable with extremely fast stimulation will make your average reaction times much faster.
You’ll see many athletes doing over-speed training.
Baseball players often practice batting with machines that throw the ball well over 100 miles an hour.
Meanwhile, football players are often paired with faster teammates to perform drills so that they’re better prepared for the opposing team.
Ultimately, the best workout to increase reaction time will mimic the movement you’re aiming to speed up.
Keep Yourself Calm
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can work to enhance your reaction times by simply learning to stay calm. Oftentimes, distractions are a big reaction time killer.
Athletes faced with screaming fans and a ton of moving players on the field have to hone in on their target to ensure that they’re responding quickly to the events of the game.
To use another example, drivers need to stay calm and distraction-free on the road so that they can respond to every unexpected hazard that comes up.
There’s a strong link between meditation and reaction times.
Several studies have shown that having the ability to calm the mind strengthens your brain’s response to sudden stimuli.
When you think about how meditation is performed, it starts to make more sense.
Meditation is all about staying calm and being mindful of your own body.
Practitioners work hard to pay attention to their breathing and increase their awareness of what their body is doing.
Contrary to popular belief, meditation isn’t focused on “emptying” the brain and thinking about nothing.
Instead, it’s about learning how to stay calm and alert no matter how crazy the world around you is.
Give meditation a shot and see how it can improve your reaction time. Take up guided meditation or yoga. Alternatively, you can develop your own calming techniques to utilize whenever things get crazy.
Either way, learning how to stay calm can make a noticeable difference in your body's reactions to audible and visual stimulation.
Did you know that the brain can shrink a bit whenever you’re dehydrated? The brain is predominantly made of water, so a lack of hydration can have a huge effect on your reaction time.
How is your brain supposed to fire off signals when it’s struggling to stay healthy?
Proper hydration is key to improving your overall health, and your brain is no exception.
Countless studies have established a link between poor cognitive performance and dehydration.
The tricky thing about keeping your brain hydrated is that you might not even know you’ve reached a critical point.
By the time you feel the urge to take a sip of water, your brain might already be a little sluggish.
To avoid these issues and keep your brain in tip-top shape, consume water constantly throughout the day.
Keep a bottle on hand. Many experts say that you should drink at least 2 liters of water every day.
However, that’s just a minimum. The more water your body gets the better.
Not only will you experience improvements in your reaction time, but you’ll also see a boost in your overall health and performance.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting at least 8 hours of sleep a day is required to stay healthy. Unfortunately, busy schedules can make this difficult for many people.
Have you ever stayed up all night to cram for a test or prepare for a big presentation at work? Chances are your reaction time was incredibly poor the following day.
There’s a reason why they tell you not to get behind the wheel when you’re tired. Your brain needs those precious hours of sleep to function properly.
Think of your brain as a computer. Like any other smart computer, it runs on a 24-hour internal clock cycle. Called the circadian rhythm, this cycle puts your brain into different states of operation.
When you’re awake, your brain acts like a temporary hard drive. All of the events of the day are stored in your short-term memory.
When you call it a night and go to sleep, all of that information is then backed up to your long-term memory.
But what happens when the short-term memory doesn’t have time to get backed up? Much like a filled hard drive, you’re going to experience some extreme data buffering and major performance issues!
You can dramatically increase your reaction times by just getting a good night of rest. It’s simple, but you’d be surprised by how quick your reaction times can be when you wake up feeling refreshed.
Properly Fuel Your Body
It might come as a surprise, but your diet can affect reaction times, too.
The food you’re consuming is fuel for your body, and all of the nutrients you put into your body are used up by the organs to stay healthy.
This includes your brain.
Tons of foods can have a noticeable effect on your reaction times.
One of the most common is coffee or soda. Heavily caffeinated drinks improve your energy levels and can stimulate your brain in so many different ways.
Generally, health professionals will tell you to steer clear of energy drinks, excessive coffee drinking, and sugary sodas.
It’s true that these caffeinated goods aren’t that great for your overall health in the long term. However, caffeine is not the primary issue.
Caffeine is perfectly fine in moderation. If you can get it from a natural source like tea, you can reap the benefits without the unwanted risks from other sugary treats
When you consume caffeine, your body releases adrenaline hormones.
This gets your blood pumping and directly affects the amount of oxygen your brain is getting. As a result, you’ll feel more alert.
Your reaction times will see a boost as well. Though, this boost will only be temporary.
If you want to feed your brain over the long term, you can improve your diet and introduce several nutrients.
Antioxidants are known to protect the brain. They have polyphenols, which may help to keep the brain safe from stress.
Antioxidants, as a whole, are capable of fighting off the signs of aging. This includes brain degeneration. The nutrient works to fight off free radicals and prevent cell oxidation.
Another good nutrient to add to your diet is Vitamin K. Vitamin-rich foods like broccoli, kale, and spinach are said to improve overall brain function.
These small changes to your diet can have a profound effect on your reaction times. When your brain is able to reach peak performance levels, it’s able to send off signals at incredibly fast speeds.
Perform Cognitive Training Exercises
One of the most effective ways to improve your reaction time is to do cognitive training exercises. These exercises are specifically targeting your brain rather than other muscles in your body.
Cognitive training is a relatively new concept that has made waves in the sports world in recent years. Some of the biggest athletes in the world have cognitive training included in their workout regime.
There are many forms of cognitive training. However, they all serve the same purpose and work the same way. Essentially, you are exposed to visual and audible stimulants and must respond as quickly as you can.
It’s like a game. In fact, most training routines are pretty addicting!
The impact this form of training can have is astounding. It’s all about establishing and strengthening those neural pathways we mentioned earlier.
By forcing your brain to respond to visual stimulants on a playing screen, you’re creating new neural paths that your brain can use to communicate with your central nervous system.
The more you train, the shorter and stronger those paths will become. Your brain will get more comfortable shooting signals through the most effective path possible, which translates into faster reaction times.
If you’re a serious athlete looking to improve your reaction time, we’d love to help you out.
Increasing your reaction time is incredibly beneficial whether you’re an athlete or not. It brings a number of benefits to your daily life that can’t be undervalued.
We highly recommend trying all of the methods on our list. When you combine them the results will blow you away.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to use cognitive training to supercharge your brain for maximum performance you can click here to learn more.